There’s a reason meetings have such a bad reputation: they’re known as a place where productivity and efficiency go to die.
Let's face it though, like them or not, meetings are a necessary part of the creative process - to share information, collaborate and keep projects on track.
Since meetings aren’t going anywhere (as much as we may want to opt out of them entirely), it’s time for you to break some bad habits in the spirit of making meetings more efficient, less annoying, and more productive.
Want to know the secrets? Here’s a list of six things you should NEVER do when you’re running a meeting (unless you want to drive your creative employees crazy):
Meeting Breaker #1: Refusing to actually lead.
Presumably, you’re the one in charge of this meeting—so act like it.
If you want to actually lead a meeting, you must:
Respect the meeting start time. Start the meeting exactly when it’s supposed to start. When you wait for people to trickle in the door five, 10, or even 15 minutes late, you are punishing the people who arrived on time. You’re also establishing the precedent that it’s perfectly okay to be late. It’s not.
Keep control. Don’t let any of your group members hijack the meeting. If a topic comes up that needs more discussion, but it’s better to break that off into a splinter meeting, take a moment to say that. Then assign someone the task of making sure that meeting gets set up.
Stick to the agenda. Unfortunately, if you give someone 10 minutes on the agenda for a certain topic, that person will inevitably try to pack a 50-slide presentation into that time. Stick to your agenda and keep things moving, otherwise people presenting later in the meeting will get shortchanged or your meeting will run long (and trust us... NO ONE wants that).
End the meeting on time. There will be members of your group who need to get back to work or attend other meetings, so make sure your meeting ends when it was scheduled, and dismiss everyone on time. Or even better: end the meeting early!
Meeting Breaker #2: Not paying attention.
“People who use mobile devices during meetings,” was the #1 complaint when we conducted an informal and completely unscientific online survey about business meeting pet peeves (our project manager conducted that one).
If you’re running a meeting, be engaged and listen at all times. If you don’t you’ll not only miss important information, you’ll embarrass yourself when you’re caught off guard.
Besides that, we can all see you staring your phone under the table. We know what you’re up to, and it’s rude.
Meeting Breaker #3: Interrupting people.
There’s nothing more annoying than being interrupted when you’re in the middle of a sentence. Let people finish what they’re saying before you ask a question or contribute your own thoughts.
As the meeting leader, you should also correct people who interrupt others when they’re speaking. Let everyone know you have a “no interruption” policy in your meetings.
Also, be aware that women are interrupted far more than men.
A study at George Washington University in 2014 showed that when men were talking with women, they interrupted 33 percent more often than when they were talking with men. If this is the case in your meetings, end it... it’s your job to provide ground rules and honor them.
If you must ask a question, ask it clearly, then allow the original speaker to regain the floor. Better yet, jot down your question and ask it when the speaker is finished.
If you get interrupted by your employees or colleague on regular basis, use Congresswoman Maxine Water’s method for confronting the issue directly.
Meeting Breaker #4: Not figuring out how to properly use the collaboration technology needed for the meeting.
It’s frustrating when a meeting can’t start on time because group members can’t see the presentation or talk to each other.
If you need to use web conferencing, a smart board, a projector, or other collaborative tools during your meeting, give yourself enough time to figure out the technology (and make sure it works) in advance. You should be able to start the meeting on time and dig into the agenda right away.
Don’t be afraid to call for backup if you need it! If you’re not familiar with the tools, arrange for a tech support member to be there to assist you. Even if you think you’re all set, but it’s your first time using it in a group, test first. You’ll thank us for this one.
Meeting Breaker #5: Reading the slides or supplemental information to the meeting participants.
Don’t read the agenda or any other supplemental materials (including presentation slides) out loud to your audience.
There’s no need to treat your team members like toddlers. Your role is to condense the information and tell a story. Trust them to read the materials themselves, then ask questions if they need clarification.
Also, if you’re going to send out supplemental information (and you expect people to review it in advance), make sure you give people enough time to go over it.
If you send out a document five minutes in advance, no one will have time to review it, and you’ll waste valuable agenda time while people go over it.
Meeting Breaker #6. Holding an unnecessary meeting.
The best thing you can do to make your meetings more productive is to ONLY hold them ONLY when you really need them.
Cancelling unnecessary meetings gives your team members more time to actually complete their work tasks and solve problems—which is really what you want them to spend their time doing.
So cancel meetings (even recurring meetings) if there is nothing to be discussed, or if the topic on the agenda could be handled with email instead.
Don’t Let Your Meetings Go Bad
We’ve all been in meetings that go well—and in ones where we desperately wished we could be somewhere else.
With these tips you can ensure that the meetings you run will be more efficient (and more enjoyable) for everyone involved—and that will make your entire team happier and more productive every day.
Plus, you might even get stuff done.