The joy of meetings, we all have them, we have some where we come out thinking ‘what the heck was that about’, we have some where come out thinking ‘well great my to do list has just doubled, thanks!’, we have some where we sit there thinking ‘oh god I am falling asleep, quick start couldn’t the ceiling titles to stay awake’ . But we also have ones where we go in thinking little and come out having been blown away.
I am often in roles where my dairy can very quickly fill up with meetings and I am utterly useless with them, especially as I tend to like to talk, (or waffle most people who know me would say!). So I thought I would quickly share some tips that I have picked up over the years having learnt them the hard way, after falling asleep in meetings (I kid you not!), after counting millions of ceiling tiles and after sitting there all too often thinking why the hell am I here!
Sounds basic right, but we all often go into a meeting not really knowing why we are going or thinking it is fine I will wing it. At the start of your day or your week, set aside 20mins to look over your calendar and with each meeting ask yourself, why am I attending this meeting, does the person I am meeting with know why I am there and do you know why they are there. The one thing I hate is if I am meeting with someone but they blind-side me with something I wasn’t prepared for or they just want to sell to me. I don’t mind people selling to me, but be honest about it. More often than not I am not the person they need to meet! If you and the person you are meeting are prepared I promise you the meeting with be a whole lot more positive.
One of my mentors told me to do this, make all meetings (within reason) 45mins, but only put one of for any hour period. It will force you to be more forced, it will force the person you are meeting to be more focused, it will tend to ensure there are stronger outcomes and the meeting is more productive. It also means you get some breathing space between meetings, which not only will reduce stress, but it also means you have a bit of time to digest one meeting before going into the next. I know one person who keeps all of their meetings to 20mins… They tell me that if the right prep work is done and all side know why they are there etc, then in most instances you can just focus on actions and that can be done in 20mins or less!
There is no point in you knowing the time limit for the meeting and you being prepped only for the person/ people you are meeting to not be aware of the time limit and not be prepared. So make sure they are. I don’t mean in a strict teacher way ‘you better read the notes, there will be a test’. I always find turning it round to show value to them helps IE ‘I know how tight you are on time, I want to make sure the meeting is productive for you…’. There is nothing worse than going into a meeting where you quickly realise the reason for the meeting was not what you thought or the person you are meeting starts off with ‘I am sorry I am going to have to cut this meeting short’.
For me this is the most important part, make sure the final 5mins of the meeting is set-aside for you to quickly run through what has been said (not in detail!) and focus on what the key actions are for you and the people/ person you have met. It will mean less follow up and ensure there are clear deliverables from both side.
Follow up quickly:
Always follow up quickly if you can, otherwise the post meeting work will drag on and on and that will just frustrate everyone. Putting things off till tomorrow, will only mean it will likely be put off again and again, it will play on your mind and it will annoy the other person.
I hope some of the above has been of some use. They basic and you might well have heard of some of them before. But, they are lessons I have learnt the hard way and I still don’t stick to them for every meeting! But when I do it is a massive help. And if you do they will hopefully help make your day will be easier., you will feel a bigger sense of accomplishment come the end of your day, you will feel less stressed/ swamped and you will be more productive.
Good luck and do add your own tips in the comments below or tweet them out and tag me (@AlexDEMitchell) and I will retweet.