Meeting Madness- Cut the Clutter (or the other C word of your choosing!)

Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO of The NIIC

When my kids were younger, I asked them what they thought I did for a living. My three boys were quick to respond. They said, “Dad you are always in meetings, and you eat business lunches out a lot.” They certainly simplified my professional life, but as we have all come to realize – meetings can be the enemy of productivity and can zap your energy. We have all attended meetings were we play with our phones, look out the window or doodle on a page in lieu of taking notes. If you’ve ever experienced meeting fatigue, then you know what I mean.

The key is to eliminate “meeting clutter” and become more intentional in the use of your time and others (in fact, time is really about your energy). In turn, this can help ensure employees are more engaged, invigorated and productive.

Here are 7 tips to consider when preparing or hosting your next business meeting:

1. Prioritize who should be at the table. Who are the key players? Who are the non-essential staff who might benefit from an email summary instead? Meetings can be a real “time suck” and drain on peoples’ precious resources. Be mindful when crafting the invitation list (who can really make an impact or move the needle?)

2. Limit the meeting size and frequency. A smaller group can boost engagement, focus and allow for deeper discussion. Are you meeting for the sake of meeting? Can a weekly meeting be pared down to a biweekly frequency? Or could you communicate the necessary information in an email or via a one-on-one conversation?

3. Have an agenda and action items. Every meeting should have a stated purpose, talking points and a decision (is it informational? is it for decision making? etc) Email the agenda in advance and encourage team members to come prepared with ideas or solutions. Build in time for brainstorming and discussion. Know the deliverables. What decisions need to be made? We use a RAIL report to focus our discussion. RAIL is the Running Action Item List. It is the big rocks we must move to make our strategic plan priorities a reality.

4. Have one team facilitator. Designate someone to monitor the time and make sure the attendees stay on point. Be sure this person can illuminate all sides of the argument, play devil’s advocate or stimulate a conversation about the potential bigger issues.

5. Consider a change in scenery. Off-site meetings can make the experience less onerous and might just be a dot connector (where your team experiences something that changes how they do something back at the office or identifies a new practice to address an organizational problem).

6. Make everyone stand up. Meetings are shorter and more succinct. The meeting doesn’t last as long. Every Monday, The NIIC’s leaders have a rhythm meeting (to describe progress, address roadblocks and cover major events/activities happening on the campus) , and by making the meeting a “standing up” meeting, we cut the meeting time substantially.

7. Calculate ROI. Look at the cost per hour around the table and calculate it. Make sure you know if the return on investment is evident from the meeting you just had or are contemplating. Could it be better accomplished by a phone call or email? You might be disappointed or disturbed by the low return and the high investment.

By evaluating factors like frequency, focus, and quality of meetings, you can increase morale and productivity while boosting your company’s bottom line.

What are your best practices related to meetings? What have you found to be helpful and not share helpful? Share your insight below.


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