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Meetings That Won't Put You to Sleep: An Easy Guide

 

Part 1: The Meeting

 

We go to more than one each week. We often feel bored, agitated and resentful that our time is being wasted. We sometimes don’t feel heard, and frequently wonder if we were required to attend at all. We feel so many negative emotions and yet the meetings, never seem to end. How did we end up here?!  

Some Stats to Break it Down

According to Meetings in America: A study of trends, costs and attitudes toward business travel, teleconferencing, and their impact on productivity;

  • American professionals typically attend more than 60 meetings each month, and
  • On average, 50% of the time spent in meetings is wasted

CBS News offers an even more alarming figure:

  • During these meetings, 39% of people fall asleep.


The Mandarin
states that for Australians, 70% of meetings were considered by those attending to be unproductive. This means that for a company with around 100 employees earning an average of $100,000, ‘the unproductive hours have a cost of $868,000 per year’. Moreover, the additional costs associated with unproductive meetings may include:

  • The cost of materials, such as paper and electricity
  • Catering costs, particularly for longer meetings that require lunch
  • The time taken by employees to set up the meeting, such as writing an agenda, tracking attendance, locating a meeting room and setting up an appropriate time
  • Room hire or facility costs
  • The time taken preparing for the meeting, such as preparing reports, summaries and reports
  • The cost of any trainers or guest speakers
  • The loss of business while employees are away from their emails and phones, including the lost time that could be used to close a sale or finalise important work
  • The cost of travel for attendees who live out of town, which may include per diem expenses and flights

Finally, there are also costs that while may not be directly linked to your bottom line, can have a significant impact on your company. These are:

  • Feelings of frustration, resentment and boredom - more common than we’d like to believe
  • Negative interactions between colleagues, passive aggressive discussions and in-fighting - which can have an impact on other projects and tasks
  • The deterioration of communication - making it difficult to find consensus and make decisions

Meetings move at the speed of the slowest mind in the room.
- Dale Dauton

 

From an employee perspective, meetings often do more harm than good, with some of the common complaints being:

  • There was little to no preparation done prior to the meeting, leading to a session of time wasting and confusion
  • There was little to no preparation done prior to the meeting, meaning questions and concerns were raised and could not be easily addressed and answered
  • There was no clear meeting chair, making discussion difficult and unproductive
  • The conversation was dominated by someone, leading to a lack of diversity in voices
  • Not all voices were recognised and heard
  • The duration of the meeting was too long
  • The meeting was boring
  • The meeting was unnecessary

 

 

Inc. outlines seven key reasons why most meetings are a waste of money and time. These are:

1. There is a focus on information on the agenda 

Rather than using words like ‘recap’ or ‘discuss’, language should be specific and to the point. Meetings should not be about information sharing - this should happen prior to the meeting.

2. They are timed poorly by using a default option

Most meetings are set up in default time periods, such as a half an hour or hour block, meaning that regardless of how long it takes for a decision to be made or for the meeting’s objective to be achieved, the meeting runs until the alloted time is up. Instead, a time frame should be determined in advance and the discussion should not take any longer.

3. Employees are late, and the meeting is delayed as a result

Typically some employees will arrive early to a meeting while others will be late, but the problem lies in allowing the general chats to continue on while the group waits for the late-comers to arrive. Meetings should always start on time, and the practice of being late should not be encouraged.

 

 

4. Attendees get away with ‘thinking out loud’

The place for thinking out loud is prior to the meeting starting, and meetings should be reserved for concrete ideas. The only exception to this is a brainstorming session or meeting dedicated to coming up with new ideas.

5. No accountability is established

Ownership over actions needs to be established at any effective meeting, otherwise responsibility becomes vague and all the good work done in identifying a problem and finding a solution is for nothing. Everyone needs to be clear on who is responsible for what, and when.

6. Lengthy recaps are standard

Recaps at the end of meetings, like most other things, should be concise, clear and should only include what needs to be done, who needs to do it and the time frame in which is needs to be completed. General discussion does not need to be included, as it takes up time and does not lead to clear results.

7. The goal of the meeting is to create ‘team cohesion’

While working together and building team cohesion is a vital part of any successful company, according to Inc., spending time together isn’t the best way to do so. By working towards a common goal and fulfilling expectations, actions and project requirements, we are able to achieve ‘productive relationships’ as opposed to ‘interpersonal relationships’.

 

 

Meetings are a symptom of a bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.
- Peter Drucker

 

So, why have meetings at all?

 

We’ve established all the ways the meetings we run fail us, but why do we still persist? When done well, meetings can set us up to do our best work, as well as:

 

  • Enable us to build relationships with those within and outside our teams, that can lead to better teamwork and collaboration
  • Give us the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss ideas freely, which in turns allows us to innovate and grow
  • Allow us to get on the same page as our co-workers, leading to fewer misunderstandings and conflicting objectives
  • Give us a chance to understand another perspective, and learn from others
  • Enable us to make decisions cohesively and clearly
  • Create an open forum for real and honest discussion
  • Offer everyone the chance to have a face-to-face discussion, which has a range of benefits and advantages that simple email exchanges do not
  • Give us the opportunity to read body language and nonverbal cues, another action that is difficult to do via written forms of communication
  • Remind us that we are not alone, rather, we are part of a larger team, organisation and vision

Types of meetings

 

The longer the meeting, the less is accomplished.     
- Tim Cook

 

There are many different types of meetings, with varying motivations, styles, requirements and appropriate time frames. As such, preparing for and running each one should involve specific actions, and not a one-size-fits-all approach. Some of the types of meetings you may have experienced are:    

 

  • A Work in Progress (WIP): a regular catch-up to discuss the status of projects, KPIs, issues, events and work related matters
  • An ad hoc meeting: an unplanned, casual meeting to discuss something that requires current attention
  • A kickoff meeting: the initial meeting to discuss a new project, with all the relevant teams and clients
  • An AGM: an annual general meeting that is typically longer than other meetings  
  • A team building session: a collaborative, relationship building meeting
  • An innovation meeting: a meeting designed to share ideas and brainstorm
  • A one-on-one: a catch-up between two people to discuss various subjects
  • A meetings via conference call or video: a meeting held via video or phone
  • A working group: a group of people working towards a common goal or on a specific project, often considered experts in their field

 

It’s important to know which kind of meeting will best suit your purpose, but in order to do so, you’ll first need to determine what it is you’re trying to achieve. There are countless reasons to hold a meeting, with just a few being:

 

  • To share information
  • To catch-up
  • To make an announcement: this could be to announce a change in company direction, staff changes or new projects
  • To brainstorm, innovate and create
  • To make a decision
  • To set expectations
  • To strategize
  • To get buy-in from staff
  • To motivate

 

Pro Tip: determine if a meeting is really necessary by asking yourself three simple questions:

 

  1. Is outside input essential?
  2. Is the only effective way to discuss the matter at hand through a face-to-face meeting?
  3. What would happen if there was no meeting?

 

If you discover that perhaps a large meeting is not necessary, consider alternatives such as sending an email, making a phone call, setting up a smaller, more informal catch-up, circulating a live, working document and requesting input from the team, or working into a Trello board or similar alternative.

Part 2: Preparation

 

Meetings are at the heart of an effective organization, and each meeting is an opportunity to clarify issues, set new directions, sharpen focus, create alignment, and move objectives forward.     
- Paul Axtell

 

 

Top Ten Tips for a Punchy Meeting

1. Prepare an agenda
2. Manage the duration of the meeting by sticking to a strict schedule and starting on time
3. Manage the group by assigning a chair and asking for input on the agenda in advance to ensure all items are discussed and addressed
4. Initiate separate meetings for unrelated topics that come up, rather than derailing the meeting in progress
5. Create clear actions and assign them during the meeting
6. Avoid length presentations
7. Only discuss relevant topics
8. Don’t let one person dominate the discussion, and try to hear all the voices in the room
9. Test any technology you’re planning on using in advance
10. Don’t call a meeting unless absolutely necessary 

 

 

And before calling your meeting, ask yourself three essential questions:

  1. What’s the point of the meeting?
  2. Who needs to be there?
  3. What needs to be discussed?

 

Get Investment

We’ve all sat through meetings where half the people involved were distracted, bored or asleep, and anybody who is paying attention is saying uninspired or unrelated things about topics you have no interest in. How can this familiar scene be avoided? Simple: get your team invested in the meeting. This can be achieved in several ways, but we suggest:

 

  • Get the team involved by requesting their input and asking what they’d like included on the agenda
  • Name the objective, goal and reason you’ve called the meeting in the invitation, to ensure everyone understands its purpose and why it’s important. This also gives people the chance to comment on the named objective, tweak it or suggest an alternate altogether
  • Ask all attendees to come to the meeting prepared, with data, reports, comments and suggestions. Meetings are quicker and more effective if everyone involved knows what they want out of them, and there will be less chance of needing to set-up future meetings

 

The Agenda

 

Having an agenda is a crucial part to meetings outside of spontaneous catch-ups, brief status reports and types of one-on-ones. It keeps the meeting focused and on track, it enables all attendees the opportunity to speak and address any items they would like discussed, but most importantly, it should force all involved in setting up the meeting to clarify the objective of the meeting, and therefore, if the meeting is even necessary at all.

 

Once you’ve determined that your meeting will be a worthwhile use of everyone’s time (pressure!), you can start putting it together. There are many ways write an agenda, and the one that works best for you will depend on your company, the meeting objectives and a range of other factors. Nonetheless, here is a general template to follow:

Weekly Marketing Meeting

3 December, 2018
10:00am - 11:00am
Chair: Peta O’Nally
Scribe: Ben Starney

Attendees: Paul Ferguson, Aileen Lane, Kim Hawthorn, Gerry Smith, Tina Paulson and Michael Kilt
Apologies: Sarah Robertson and Nick Elms 

Actions from previous meeting (optional): Update on budget

Item 1: Social Media update
Sub heading: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Sub heading: Reporting data

Item 2: Current campaigns
Sub heading: Campaign update
Sub heading: Future campaigns

Item 3: SEO update

Other Business
Sub heading: Conflicts of interest
Sub heading: Christmas party

Minutes to be distributed by: 10 December, 2018

Next meeting: 15 January, 2019

Meeting agenda

Sales agenda

 

Once you’ve determined who to invite - and be sure to invite only who is absolutely necessary - it’s time to start preparing. Whether you’re setting up the room, preparing a presentation or getting your notes in order, there are some important things to remember:

 

  1. Use resources to make your job easier, such as scheduling apps, project management tools, and shared documents  
  2. Go in with an objective and work hard to achieve your set out goals. Even if you have to schedule future meetings to discuss ideas that come up, do your best to keep the current meeting on topic
  3. Stay focussed on the task at hand and try to avoid side conversations, unrelated chats and time wasting
  4. Prepare data for the meeting, so every statement made can be backed up. Waiting to validate facts will waste time, and may mean you’re unable to finalise decisions. Bringing data also shows the group you’re prepared, and will give you confidence and clarity during discussion
  5. Be on time, no matter what. Set a good example by respecting your time and everyone else’s
  6. Speak up, but don’t dominate. Encourage everyone else to do the same, and curtail conversations that are unhelpful

 

And don’t forget the most important detail of all: PREPARE

 

The Minutes


Minutes are one of the most important parts of the meeting process, as they provide a written record of everything that was discussed, make clear who is accountable for what, remind everyone what was discussed and what their responsibilities are, and provide a single version of events. When writing your minutes, make sure you include:

 

  • All participants who attended the meeting
  • All agenda items discussed
  • All actions and people responsible for each item
  • Any documents that were used in or referred to during the meeting
  • Any relevant next steps

 

Pro Tip: consider using a shared document to easily track changes and save time

 

Minutes


The Importance of Feedback

 

Soliciting feedback is something almost everyone could do more often, and can provide valuable insight into how operations, relationships and processes are running. Asking for it after a meeting should be no exception. Consider sending out a short survey after your meeting and including the following questions:

  1. Was the meeting useful?
  2. Was the meeting too long?
  3. Did you feel heard?
  4. Did your issues get resolved, at least in part?
  5. Are your actions clear?
  6. How could our meetings be improved?
  7. Overall, how would you rate the meeting (1-10)?

 

Part 3: Preparation

 

The final consideration when planning, executing and nailing a meeting, is having the right space, technology and furniture to make bring it all together.

Essential Technology

There are so many computers, laptops and projectors out there, but here are a few of our favourites:

HP 15-DA0039TU 15.6" Laptop

Webcam 

MicroSD Card Reader

20GB memory

1 year $799
Dell Inspiron 14-5000 14" 2-in-1 Touchscreen Laptop (i7)

 

SD card reader included

1920 x 1080 resolution

8MB memory cache

1 year $1,699
Acer Aspire A114-31-P438 14-inch Laptop

 

64GB storage capacity

1366 x 768 screen resolution

7 hour battery life

 

1 year $398
HP Pavilion 15-CS0055TX Laptop

1920 x 1080 screen resolution

16GB installed RAM

2GB graphics card memory

1 year $1,294
Microsoft Surface Laptop - m3 / 4GB / 128GB

128GB storage capacity

2256 x 1504 screen resolution

4GB installed RAM

1 year $898
Lenovo Yoga 530 14" Black 2-in-1 Laptop

 

14" display size

1366 x 768 screen resolution

8GB installed RAM

1 year $988
Meeting Room Projector - Epson EB-X24

 

Optical zoom

60" screen projector distance

Soft carrying case included

Optional wireless connectivity

2 years $998
Short Throw Projector

 

Password lock

87cm throw distance 

16 watt speaker included

Monitor input

3 years $1,120
Casio Ultra Short Throw LED Projector XJ-UT311WN

1280 x 800 WGXA resolution

Inbuilt speaker

WiFi connectivity supported

20,000 hour life cycle

5 years $2,849

Meeting Furniture

The finishing touch to the best meetings is the office furniture on which they take place. A comfortable chair and a sturdy table might not seem like much, but can go a long way to making people last longer, feel less agitated and more patient, and enabling staff to easily communicate with each other.

Meeting Room Chairs

Swan White Nylon Office Chair- White Frame

 

Tension adjustment 

Available with a mesh, plastic or fabric back

Lockable in any position

 

3 years $304
Eames Reproduction - Boardroom Office Chair Medium Back Black

 

Made with synthetic leather

Back tilt adjustment

120 day risk free returns 

3 years $314
Wave Plastic Chair Mobile Base - White 

Mobile legs

Plastic finish

3 years $216
Teddy Plastic Tub Chair - 4 Legged Natural Wood

 

Available in black, light blue and white

Natural wood legs

5 years $209
Visitor / Reception Chair Ashtree Wood Frame Fabric Seat Vernice

 

Casual, modern design

Versatile and comfortable

3 years $313
Premium Reception Chair Ashtree Wood Frame Fabric Seat Meltin

 

Modern, stylish piece for the upscale office

A premium reception chair option

3 years $499
Eames Reproduction - Executive Mesh Office Chair Medium Back Black

 

High-quality reproduction

Comfortable, and affordable chair

3 years $314
Kookaburra - Conference / Event Side Chair Mesh Back

 

Mesh back conference chair

Ideal for long meetings or for guests who deserve comfort

3 years $168
Zazu - 4 Legged Visitor Office Chair Cheap office chair with a simple yet classic appearance 3 years $122
Zazu - Visitor Mesh Arm Chair Easy arm chair for any executive's office 3 years $196
Swan Black Nylon Office Chair - Black Frame

 

Ultra comfortable office chair with all the features you could want

5 years $304

 

 Meeting Room Tables

Resetto - Square Meeting / Boardroom Table White Legs

 

Simple, clean design for the office of innovators

3 years $480
Resetto - Square Meeting / Boardroom Table Black Legs

 

Simple, clean design with brown top for the office of innovators

3 years $480
Switch Boardroom Table - Wood Imprint Frame

 

Powerful boardroom table with imprint frame and clean surface

 

10 years $909
Switch Small Round Meeting Room Table - Wood Imprint Frame Beautiful meeting table for those spontaneous catch-ups 10 years $450
Resetto - Round Table Black Legs A round table ideal for an office that hosts the occasional one-on-one 3 years $426
Switch Large Round Meeting Room Table - Wood Imprint Frame

Strong, high-quality meeting table 

Crisp white top couple with wood imprint frame

10 years $722
Resetto - Round Table White Legs

Round table with dynamic appearance

Ideal for small meeting spaces

3 years $511
Switch Boardroom Table - White Frame

 

Strong, striking design

The perfect piece for the busy office that hosts regular meetings

10 years $909
San Fran Round Meeting Table White Legs Relaxed, classic meeting table with modern look 5 years $520
Sapphire - Cafe Table Stainless Steel Base Cafe table created for informal chats and ad-hoc meetings 5 years $429
San Fran - Executive Boardroom Table Rectangle Chrome Legs

Executive boardroom table essential for the corporate office 

Seats 16 comfortably 

10 years $1,490
Boardroom Table Premium Rectangle Table Indented Chrome Legs Blackjack

Wide boardroom table with stylish, modern design

A must-have piece for large, corporate offices

10 years $1,576
Resetto - 8 Person Rectangular Meeting Room Table Wooden Legs White A sleek meeting room table for any office that likes to catch-up 3 years $916
San Fran - Executive Boardroom Table Square Chrome Legs A high-quality meeting room table for smaller, corporate catch-ups NA $730
Fixed Top Mobile Meeting Room Table with Wheels Chrome Legs Domino

 

Flexible meeting room table for multiple employees

Sturdy and made with high-quality materials

5 years $378
Large Boardroom Table With Indented Chrome Legs Blackjack For 10 / 12 / 14 People

 

The ultimate in boardroom meeting tables

Seats up to 14 with significant space for accessories and equipment

A necessary part of any corporate powerhouse

5 years $2,965  

 

 Meeting Room Accessories

Desk / Workstation Power Dome White Pluto

 

A required accessory for the modern office

Useful for meeting presentations

10 years $244
Cable Management Tray Plastic

 

Keeps cables in check and the meeting rooms a little safer

 

5 years $42
Umbilical Cord Celing to Desk 2.3m A necessary item for the safe conscious team  5 years $240
Vertical Under Desk Power

 

A neat solution for the office that presents at meetings

 

5 years $120
Wall Starter White Soft Wiring A necessary item for any office 5 years $18
Z Ficus Ball Tree 1200mm A simple way to brighten up a meeting room  10 years $160
Z FIcus Tree Potted 1200mm A bold statement for the innovative office 10 years $137  

 

White Boards and Presentation Boards

Small White Magnetic Frameless Glass Whiteboard JasonL

 

Stainless steel brackets

Safety glass

Magnetic and frameless

10 years $451
Medium White Magnetic Frameless Glass Whiteboard JasonL

 

Toughened safety glass

Stainless steel brackets

10 years $734
Large Magnetic Whiteboard JasonL

 

4mm safety toughened glass

Non porous surface

Modern appearance

5 years $262
Magnetic Whiteboards Medium

 

Magnetic surface

Concealed world fixing

Available in several sizes

5 years $183
Mobile Magnetic Whiteboard Double Sided Pivoting JasonL

 

Double sided magnetic surface

Easy to control wheels

Available in several sizes

3 years $314
Electronic / Digital Interactive Whiteboard

 

State-of-the-art electronic copy board

Includes one-touch USB, plug and play functionality

Magnetic design

1 year $3,685
Magnetic Glass Board Black Frameless

 

Magnetic, glass board

Ideal for flexible brainstorming

Available in several sizes

5 years $396
Felt Board Aluminium Frame 450mm (W) x 600mm (H)

 

Aluminium frame

Concealed wall fixings

Environmentally friendly 

1 year $30

Magnetic Glass Flipchart / Whiteboard Movable / Height Adjustable

 

Magnetic surface

Practical design

Adjustable and lockable

 

1 year $576

2 Double Sided Vertical Sliding Mobile Whiteboard Aspire

Easily accessible low height

Durable strong steel stand

 

1 year $1,151
Mobile Porcelain Whiteboard on Wheels Pivoting / Fixed

 

Durable, double-sided design

Includes cleaning fluid, magnets, eraser, markers and cloths

3 years $876
Self Healing Fabric Pinboard Krommenie Architectural Frame Red

Soft and durable fabric

Available in a range of sizes

Lifetime $289
Magnetic Blackboard Timber Frame

Wall-mounted magnetic design

Classic timber frame

1 year $183
Mobile Magnetic Flipchart / Whiteboard Lockable Wheels White

Height adjustable mechanism

Refillable pad packs

1 year $437
Magnetic Flipchart / Whiteboard Flat Writing Table Folding White

 

Rotating magnetic surface

Height adjustable

1 year $428

 

Whiteboard Starter Kit

 

Includes cleaning fluid, magnets, eraser, markers and cleaning cloths

NA $23  

Magnetic Eraser

 

Chemical-free, reusable alternative to spray

NA $5

 

Vision Chart - Communication Room Divider 

A double partition with large, lockable wheels 5 years

 

Sources

1. 5 Ways to Make the Most of Meetings
The Muse
https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-ways-to-make-the-most-of-meetings

2. Workplaces that Work
Hrcouncil.ca
http://hrcouncil.ca/hr-toolkit/workplaces-meetings.cfm

3. Elon Musk says you should walk out of bad work meetings. Here’s what to do if you’re not a billionaire
ABC News
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-19/musk-says-walk-out-of-meetings.-heres-why-thats-a-bad-idea/9674514

4. Running a multidisciplinary care meeting
Australian Government  - Cancer Australia
https://canceraustralia.gov.au/clinical-best-practice/multidisciplinary-care/all-about-multidisciplinary-care/running-multidisciplinary-care-meeting

5. Effective Meeting Habits: 11 Tips That Will Make Your Meetings Successful
Finance Online
https://financesonline.com/effective-meeting-habits-11-tips-will-make-meetings-successful/

6. How to Run a More Effective Meeting
New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/guides/business/how-to-run-an-effective-meeting

7. 9 Tips for More Effective Business Meetings
Medium
https://medium.com/@KeithKrach/9-tips-for-more-effective-business-meetings-cc68d3f73949

8. Master your meetings with these 8 essential calendar tips
Fast Company
https://www.fastcompany.com/90180381/these-8-essential-calendar-tips-will-let-you-master-your-meetings

9. 10 Tips for Holding a Family Meeting
Psychology Today
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-fitness/201209/10-tips-holding-family-meeting

10. Tips for a Successful Meeting
APS Physics
https://www.aps.org/meetings/events/futurephysics/tips.cfm

11. Why Meetings Kill Productivity (and What to Do About It)
Business.com
https://www.business.com/articles/better-meeting-productivity/

12. Meetings in America: A study of trends, costs and attitudes toward business travel, teleconferencing, and their impact on productivity
Greenwich, CT: INFOCOMM, 1998
https://e-meetings.verizonbusiness.com/global/en/meetingsinamerica/meetingsinamerica_i.php

13. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Meetings
Project Management Hacks 
http://projectmanagementhacks.com/meeting-tips/

14. Microsoft Office template
Agendas
https://templates.office.com/en-us/Agendas

15. 32 Agenda Templates & Examples
Examples.com 
https://www.examples.com/business/agenda-template.html

16. Sample Board Meeting Minutes
Wiki How
https://www.wikihow.com/Sample/Board-Meeting-Minutes

17. Why 99 Per Cent of All Meetings Are a Complete Waste of Time 
Inc.
https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/why-99-percent-of-all-meetings-are-a-complete-wast.html

17. Is This Your Organisation's Most Important Hidden Cost?
The Mandarin
https://www.themandarin.com.au/76794-is-this-your-organisations-most-important-hidden-cost/

 

 

 

 



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