Meetings can drain the life out of a company, with people spending so much time at meetings that they can’t actually do any work. But maybe you know that, and have already tried all of the standard tactics to reduce meeting time such as designating some meetings tactical and some strategic, starting meetings with a lightning round of issues, or even avoiding meetings all together in favour of emails or phone calls. Yet there are still meetings that must be held.
What can you do to shake things up and get results?
Try holding a standing meeting.
Yes, this is a meeting in which everyone stands.
This has been found to shorten meeting times considerably. People are more concerned with comfort than looking good, and so questions and answers tend to be shorter and more to the point.
Fewer extraneous questions get asked, especially the ones that aren’t really questions but rather someone trying to make points or gain attention.
If your problem is that everyone is too stressed by their work deadlines to concentrate on the meeting, try having after-hours meetings. Many successful companies such as Yahoo and Wal-mart finish the workweek with cocktail parties on Friday afternoons to give people a chance to relax while discussing status, reviewing accomplishments, and planning for the next week, or meet first thing Saturday morning to get a fresh point of view.
For totally out-of-the-box thinking, consider out-of-the-box meetings, such as holding the meeting in a virtual environment.
Linden Labs, maker of Second Life, uses this approach, as do many large companies to whom they’ve licensed the software for internal virtual worlds inside the company firewalls.
This is especially useful for widely located teams, who are able to connect with each other better avatar-to-avatar than as bodiless voices on the phone.
Depending on your team’s needs, you can have virtual voice meetings, text-based meetings, or combinations of the two. If you’re not quite ready to step into the virtual world, you can still get people out of their everyday mind-set by having meetings in lounge areas filled with comfortable furniture more like a coffee house than a conference room.
Identify what’s wrong with your meetings and try out the above ideas or some different ones. In fact, why not ask your people to confidentially submit THEIR ideas for shorter, fewer and more productive meetings. If you’ve got the right team, they may surprise you with their innovations.
Head of Training