Meetings must be called only when it is essential

If you are a professional who calls for a meeting at the drop-of-a-hat then think twice, it may be using up the productive working time of your colleagues.

In every organization, there are several activities and tasks that can only be accomplished by teams. While a lot of work nowadays gets done electronically, there is still the need to have physical meetings.

These meetings ensure that all team members are on the same track and also offer a platform for them to share views / opinions, pool-in ideas, and also voice reservations. Office meetings are meant to be productive, and are usually used for brain storming which is a great way for facilitating breakthroughs and solutions to problem. However, these sessions often turn into blame storming sessions where the focus is more on who to blame for what went wrong rather than figure out what to do to set things right.

Objectives and intentions aside, the length of meetings does matter a lot to employees, as it eats away a lot of productive time. A research analyst at an investment bank in Mumbai says, we’ve all been part of meetings where one person rants away on an irrelevant topic and does not even notice the others who are snoring away. And by the time the meeting ends, half the day is over.

While it would be great if we could all have crisp, quick and to the point type of meetings everyday, it never happens everywhere. Here are ways in which you can work towards having shorter, but more effective meetings.

Whenever you are calling for a meeting, ask yourself, Is this meeting necessary? And if the answer is ‘no’ then don’t have it. Many corporaters have a bad habit of holding meetings everyday. We have a target and it takes away at least an hour and a half in the mornings and saps the energy right in the beginning of the day. Ideally, it would be great if we have this meeting just twice a week.

Sometimes getting to a meeting can be a long and arduous process in itself. A marketing professional says, ‘My company has two offices in the city. Whenever there is a meeting in the head office (HO), I have to write off half the day for a one hour meeting. Just getting to the HO takes me an hour. I’ve been recommending tele or video conferencing for a while now. But my boss doesn’t think it is necessary. She sits in the HO, and it is convenient for her’.

Ensure the presence of key people:

If the meeting’s agenda requires the presence of certain employees, then ensure that they are present. Sending reminders to them before hand helps. Imagine sitting for a session to discuss the marketing strategy for the quarter without the marketing head.

If you convening the meeting, then make sure that the essentials for the meetings are in place whether it’s a project, writing material, or data that is critical to the discussion. The smallest item if not thought out before hand can prolong meetings, even though it may be only for a few minutes.

Many times, meetings go on forever because those attending them have no clue about the discussion, or the time frame of the meeting. A few people learnt it the hard way many times. And since then when they start a meeting they always outline the agenda right in the beginning. It is also productive to put down a time at which the meeting will be wrapped up.

If you want to conduct a quick meeting, and don’t want to spend an extra minute, then have a standing meeting. If there is a regular sit-down meeting, then the minimum time spent would be half an hour. Standing ensures that people will disburse in 10-15 minutes once the topic is discussed. But please don’t try this if you have a longer meeting in mind as it will make everyone uncomfortable.

The meetings and its follow ups would be far more efficient if it is summarized by the moderator in the end, along with a time schedule of follows ups by specific participants in the meeting.