Bored Meetings

by Andy Bounds on April 4, 2013 · 0 comments

Eight simple ways to stop tedious meetings ruining your week

Multi-ethnic group portraitBNI meetings are brilliant – lots gets done. There’s bundles of energy.  Everyone contributes.

Most business meetings, of course, aren’t like this.  In fact, research by Epson found that inefficient meetings cost the UK economy £26billion per year.  Apparently, we waste an average of nearly three hours every week because of inefficiencies in meetings.

Here are my eight ways to transform meetings, so you get more done, more quickly, and with minimal waste.

#1 It’s what you cause, not what you cover

A meeting is supposed to cause something.  That’s the point of it.

So, don’t start by thinking what your agenda should be.  Instead, focus first on what you want to happen after it (an action, a decision, etc).  Then, work backwards to decide what the agenda should cover, who should attend and the time you need.

#2 Think “pit stop”, not “sandwich break” 

Meetings should be like pit stops: fast, efficient and everyone having a reason for being there – just like BNI.  They should speed things up.

However, most business meetings are like compulsory sandwich breaks: stodgy, bloating, and containing ingredients you hate.  They slow you down.

Change your “sandwich break meetings” to pit stops.  Or stop having them. 

#3 Have fewer attendees 

When two people meet, they only need one agreement: A must agree with B.  When four people meet, they need six agreements – AB, AC, AD, BC, BD and CD.  When eight people meet, it’s 28 agreements (don’t worry – I won’t list them).

So, invite fewer people. And definitely don’t invite people who can’t contribute/don’t care.

If you don’t limit attendees, you’re deciding by committee.  And that just never works.  

#4 Have fewer topics 

Strip out every agenda item you could progress outside the meeting – things you could do on your own, in a 121, by email etc.  This might result in your meetings becoming very short; but, hey, who’s complaining?

#5 Be interesting 

If you think your meetings might be boring, they are.

You know the meetings that always drag on.  So, change something – the venue, your agenda, the chairperson, who sits where… anything.

After all, making a mistake once isn’t a mistake; it’s learning.  But make the same mistake more than once, and it becomes a mistake. Keep making it, and it’s just daft.

#6 Shorten them 

Twenty people meeting for thirty minutes doesn’t take thirty minutes.  It absorbs ten man-hours of time.  Was the agenda really that important?  Allocate the time you need.  If you can discuss everything in 7 minutes, diarise your meeting for 7 minutes.

For example, don’t assume 121s will last 30 or 60 minutes, because that fits neatly in your Outlook diary.  Even better, say it will last ‘a maximum’ of a time.  Let’s face it, if you say it’ll last 45 minutes, it will.  But ‘a maximum of 45 minutes’ means people expect it to be less; so, it often is. 

#7 Don’t have ‘Update Meetings’

Update meetings take too long, achieve too little and are deathly dull.

So make them shorter, and/or less often.  Even better, unless it will cause big problems, just stop having them.

And if you must have then, give one minute max to share their best/worst things about the week, rather than spending ages saying “I’m working on X”.

#8 Don’t go

When you’re invited to a meeting but don’t want to go, don’t go.  It’s a meeting invitation, not a Court Summons.

You have lots of options: explain you can’t contribute, and meet with the owner 121 instead; if you can contribute to only a couple of agenda items, ask that they’re discussed first so you can attend for them, then leave; and so on.  Don’t worry about missing something: you can always ask for a copy of the actions arising.

And always remember…

The personalities and politics involved with meetings mean you can’t always do all eight of these.  But you can always do more than none.  Everyone – especially you – will be glad you did.

Andy Bounds
Andy Bounds has helped his customers win over £8billion of new business. He was voted Britain’s Sales Trainer of the Year. His book The Jelly Effect (Capstone) is an international best-seller. To receive his weekly tips on improving sales and communication, visit www.andybounds.com/tips.

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