Making the Most of Your Meeting Time
Most people who know me well know that one of my strengths is time management. I prioritize everything I do against my objectives and value every minute of every day. So I’m constantly looking for tools to help improve my efficiency in the activities that take up the most of my precious 24 hours. And if you look at my calendar – meetings are the evil that consume the majority of my time.
If meetings are going to consume that much of my time, it is best that they are efficient not just for my sake, but also for the sake of others participating with me. Here are a few tips that I have developed over time.
1. Clear purpose – if you cannot define the purpose – the “verb” that should come as a result of your meeting – CANCEL IT. And let’s be clear – “discuss” is not a verb. The verb should be actionable.
Here’s an example:
Purpose: Discuss the options around the configuration of the widget
Purpose: Determine the widget configuration that best meets our needs and constraints.
It is actionable – it tells your stakeholders that they should come to the meeting prepared because a decision will be made. If you cannot clearly statement an actionable purpose for your meeting, if it is yet another “status” meeting – then you should look for another way to satisfy your need or look to another meeting to combine purposes with the same stakeholders.
2. Interaction – I cannot stand meeting wall flowers. If you are taking up space in the meeting, then you need to participate. When I host a meeting, I’m looking for everyone to participate. If someone is there to “just observe”, they need to excuse themselves to go get other work done. As a meeting host, I’m going to try to elicit information & interaction out of everyone so our meeting is fulfilling to everyone.
3. Questions - I do not call meetings just to hear myself speak. Actually in a lot of my meetings, I hope that I am facilitating active dialogue – not providing it. If I feel a lull coming over my group, I am going to ask questions – even ones with obvious answers – just to get the group talking.
4. Preparation – this tip cannot be under-valued. If I am hosting or participating, I am going to come prepared (okay, I’m not perfect but I’m going to TRY to come prepared). I usually have a good feel for who is attending the meeting, what I am looking for out of the meeting, and a few pre-thought topics that I want to discuss. This also helps with tip #3.
5. Touching Base – I picked this idea up just last week. I was sitting in a meeting and at the end of the allocated time, the host asked if anyone had any questions. Good thing they didn’t, because they stood between a hungry group of stakeholders and the door. I am going to try to start asking that question throughout my meeting instead of the end. It’s very natural to ask at the end – and should be asked at the end but I am going to encourage questions throughout the meeting going forward.
6. Meeting Notes – Yes, I dread typing up my 5 pages of notes but I do not provide a word-for-word playback of what occurred in the meeting. However if you need this - check out my post on the LiveScribe pen. Depending on the meeting, I provide a select set of information. At a minimum, I provide Attendees, Topics discussed, Action Items taken.
For a requirements session (in my BA role), I add in Requirements Captured. I have recently also added Terms Identified (also used in my Requirements Specification) and Test Scenarios Identified (bonus as I don’t always have a QA resource engaged during the Requirements phase of my projects). My theory with this information is that it should help in facilitating a faster requirements approval step on my projects. Time will tell…..
7. Decline – Yes, I decline meetings. If I do not think that I will add value, I say no. I also say no if it does not align to my objectives to participate (often I suggest rescheduling if needed) or I delegate if someone on my team is empowered to attend (as a decision maker – not a note taker).
There are only 24 hours in a day and for most professionals, meetings consume a significant amount of this time. Some of the strongest professionals I have observed have found ways to make the most of their time.
What techniques do you use to make your meetings most effective for you and/or your meeting participants?