I recently watched this hysterical six-minute TED Talk by David Grady created in November of 2014 titled, "How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings." Grady talks about how many meetings are unsuccessful due to no agenda or clear reason why each person is present. He reinforces his thinking by hilariously acting out the many interruptions that happen during a teleconference due to lines dropping, individuals joining late and so on. He humorously blames these unproductive meetings on “Meeting Acceptance Syndrome” or MAS – the impulse to instinctively accept every meeting invite that is sent to you.
To Grady’s point, while I do agree that many meetings are unproductive, I believe that we can fix this pain point before the meeting invite is sent by learning to be effective communicators. Using the 6 suggestion below will save your employees and colleagues from another bad meeting.
1. Ask yourself – “Does what I need to communicate require a meeting?”
Many meetings are unproductive because they are unnecessary to begin with. Meetings should increase productivity, not delay outputs. Meetings should focus on quality over quantity.
Tip: Before sending a meeting invite consider different routes to communicate with employees including: Email, internal social media tools such as IM/Yammer, coffee chats or even individual meetings versus large group meetings.
2. Set and send an agenda.
Ever get a meeting invite and wonder, “What is this meeting for?” You end up accepting the invite because you are usually too busy to find out the purpose. As the host of the meeting, I recommend providing a clear agenda to give a sense of direction and let employees know what is expected of them.
Tip: Include the agenda in the calendar invite and when possible, provide pre-communication emails about the meeting letting employees know what is coming up.
3. Watch timing.
I cannot tell you how many times I have gone into one meeting late because a previous meeting ran over or because we got way off topic during the first meeting. As important as meetings are, it is also important that each meeting start on time and end on time to ensure a good use of everyone’s time and resources. It is also important, as host and facilitator, that you curb conversations that are not necessarily appropriate for the meeting being held.
Tip: Before sending the agenda, estimate how much time you will spend talking about each section, putting additional time allotted for questions and discussion. I also read somewhere that if you curb a conversation that sounds like a good topic for discussion, put the idea in what is called a “parking lot” and make sure to revisit the topic at a later time.
4. Drive engagement with experiences.
At Gagen MacDonald, we firmly believe that powerful experiences shift thinking and beliefs and drive behavior change. Through shared experiences and interaction, meetings serve as a great way to drive personal and team commitment to what is being communicated.
Tip: Use a mix of video, exercises and dialogue to get your audience to actively engage and understand what you are trying to communicate. If those are not available, a simple change in environment can also inspire creativity and innovation.
5. Identify action items and owners.
Make sure to finish each meeting with next steps. Clearly outline the action items determined in the meeting and the owners responsible for completing those action items. Where possible, include a timeframe.
Tip: Go into each meeting with some action items you think will come out of it and have a notebook to write additional ones or questions.
6. Follow up.
Make sure to follow up with attendees as needed after the meeting to ensure action items are followed through. In addition, use follow-ups, whether it’s an individual conversation or email, to respond to unanswered questions during the meeting or at least give an idea when the question can be answered. Follow-up ensures alignment, increases trust, and shows you are listening, not just lecturing.
Tip: Following each big meeting, provide a recap email outlining what was discussed, next steps and a timeline as a way to further reiterate and reinforce key messaging.
Communication is the key to success at any enterprise. Being an effective communicator, host and facilitator will ensure that your employees and colleagues will no longer have to suffer from MAS.