I’ve been in a lot of meetings – some of them for work, some for volunteering and some for social purposes. I was at a meeting last night and while it was run well there were some things that came to mind about making meetings better and using technology to do so.
There are a lot of commonalities to the meetings I’ve been to and they’re usually not good. I’m going to outline some of the annoying problems that reoccur and my suggestions for a better way. Please if there is anything I have left out leave me a message (with a solution too if you have one).
1. Meetings stray off course – We’ve all been there. We were talking about X then all of sudden we started on Y then Z which then drifted to talking about where you went for dinner last night?!?!
My vision – Stick with the philosophy that everyone’s there for a (short) period of time and no longer so you MUST not waste time. Side discussions should be left for a different venue. Groups should use a message board or private group page to get into finer details or off topic discussions. Remind people when there’s 15 minutes and 5 minutes left and once time is up, wrap it up and get out! Period.
2. Meetings are TOO LONG – I had a manager once who would keep us in meetings that typically went 2 1/2 to 3 hours long. Granted we had a lot to go over, but keeping all of of there for that long was incredibly unproductive and boring. If a meeting is going on too long it can be for 1 of 3 reasons; 1. There’s too much on the agenda 2. There are too many off topic discussions going on 3. People are making speeches instead of getting to the point.
My vision – A meeting should be a half hour to 1 1/2 hours long max . Anything shorter is a trivial waste of time and anything longer people start leaving or losing attention. Think about what you need to accomplish then fit it into your time allotment. Remind people who want to make speeches that they should outline their ideas and post them on your group page (if you’re using Enterthegroup.com). Encourage people involved in side conversations to take their (pertinent) ideas to the group page too so people can see their ideas at their leisure and contribute as well.
3. Meetings end up solving nothing – This is when you go around in circles and nothing is decided, except to have another meeting, but even that is chaotic. This usually happens when there is no clear agenda for what you hope to achieve with your meeting or you try to be too democratic when there are many different opinions.
My vision – Have a clear cut agenda before the meeting which is emailed to everyone and stored on a group page for easy access. When asking people’s opinion give a few options then force people to choose in that narrow range. If possible get people to vote using a poll feature after or before the meeting.
4. When (not if) to have the next meeting? – This is always fun, asking a room full of people to figure out their best time(s) for the next meeting. You usually end up with a bunch of different suggestions and someone is always left out. ‘I can’t make that day, but how about this day? I can’t make that day because of x,y z reasons’ and on and on it goes.
My vision – Everyone votes, with a narrow range of choices, for their optimal day for the meeting. You do this shortly after the meeting and go with whatever the results of the poll are. Post it up on a shared calendar and that’s it. If you can’t make it well that’s too bad. Be sure to post meeting notes somewhere everyone can easily access for those who can’t make the meeting.
Obviously I lean towards creating a private pages for project management. The benefits of a shared calendar, shared email, message boards and file sharing are immense. It doesn’t have to something uber-complex or expensive. It just has to save people time and reduce stress.
Have I missed anything? Let me know.