Yes – and i’ll show you how.

Are meetings a waste of time? Many would agree they are. Why do we spend countless hours in meetings where we are asked to “review” a plan or a task, or “learn” more about a specific topic? Why do managers ask team members to attend a meeting to “discuss” how to move forward on a project?

Many employees, leaders and managers really don’t understand the specific reasons why meetings should be held. In my experience, I have found there are three reasons to schedule a meeting: to make a decision, to provide pertinent information or updates, or to brainstorm. Follow my easy steps below – I call them Rules of Engagement – and learn how to conduct effective meetings. You team will thank you!

1. What is the purpose of the meeting?

There should be a clear reason why the meeting is taking place, and it should be tied to making a specific decision. For example, the purpose of the meeting is to “create the agenda for the convention” or to “brainstorm ideas on how to increase sales.” If you find yourself wondering whether it’s worth it to hold a meeting, ask yourself whether the outcome is tied to making a decision. If it isn’t, you’re likely wasting your time, your team’s time and your company’s resources (remember, employee salaries are an important company investment).

2. Facilitator and timekeeper

A skilled meeting facilitator provides leadership and guidance throughout the meeting. I know it’s hard to believe; but a meeting doesn’t have to last 30 minutes or 60 minutes. It can be as short as a 10-minute meeting when smaller decisions need to be made or a crucial or sensitive update needs to be communicated. We tend to think that if someone schedules a meeting from 1:00 to 1:30 we need to fill that entire time slot. A facilitator will keep the meeting on track, and conclude the meeting once a decision has been made. However, a meeting should not go over the allocated meeting time, respecting everyone’s busy calendars.

3. Participants must prepare for the meeting

When meetings are tied to specific decisions, it’s important to prepare team members prior to the meeting. Each person in the meeting should have a very clear role and thus prep accordingly. The facilitator / manager provides all materials needed prior to the meeting so that everyone is properly prepared at the meeting to either make a decision, be properly equipped to receive crucial updates, or to brainstorm on how to move forward.

4. Meeting agenda to serve as a roadmap

The facilitator is in charge of creating and communicating an agenda ahead of time. And since most meetings should be tied to specific decisions, it’s equally important to create a “who, what, when and where” to ensure that there will be ownership in moving each topic / action item forward.

5. Meeting etiquette

Cohesive teams understand the importance of meeting etiquette, and members should follow these basic guidelines:

  • Meeting should be fact- or situation-based
  • Focus on content (not person)
  • Avoid interruptions
  • Silence is approval
  • Avoid multitasking; be present during the meeting
  • It’s OK to challenge, but it must always be done respectfully and in a non-combative way.

Basically, your team is working together to achieve a common goal, and in order to be successful, each person must trust the team – and each other – to do their part in moving their shared agenda forward.  And when we create a trusting and respectful environment, it’s much easier to achieve results.

6. Action

You do not need a lengthy meeting recap after the meeting. Since the purpose of the meeting was to make a decision or inform on a pertinent piece of information, you only include steps taken to reflect this. The recap can be short (bullet action items) linking each decision to a “who, what, when and where.”

And though I’ve stressed the importance that each meeting should be tied to a decision, I’m not saying that brainstorming sessions are unimportant. If you’re indeed looking to generate new ideas and a new way of thinking about a specific problem, by all means, gather the group for a brainstorming session. But even then, there ought to be a clear and concise purpose that ensures each participant understands his or her role in the eventual path forward.

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