I always see my boss wandering around in his room with his AirPods on – Yes, he is always in meetings. Based on my observation, he spends almost 20 hours per week on average on different meetings.
Spending Too Much Time On Meeting?
It is not only my boss that spends tons of time on meetings. My supervisor also disappears from her desk all the time. Whenever I want to look for her for some work or some advice, I couldn’t locate her at her desk. She never call in sick, but she just like sales guys in a company who seldom sitting in the seat. Instead of closing deals outside the office, she attends a lot of meetings with different teams on different issues.
Sometimes I make fund of her, saying she is hired only for having meetings with colleagues.
My HR Manager is having the same issue. I once caught her at elevator when she was leaving the office. She told me that she has spent a lot of time on different meetings and interviews lately. She was exhausted and wanted to take a small break. I didn’t know how to help her at that time but just comfort her by saying “cheer up!”.
Sometimes I am wondering if it is necessary to spend so much time on meetings?
I am not sure if they have tried their best to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the meetings? What if they haven’t because they have been too busy on different work? What would I do if I need to attend many meetings? How could I ensure all the meetings I attend would be efficient and effective?
With all these questions, I try to recall the memories and check what I did back then when I attended meetings. Eventually, I have summarized 5 key actions that could help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the meetings.
1st Way: Full Preparation
Preparation is important because it helps us to ensure what needs to be discussed in the meeting. Sometimes people just call a meeting because they suddenly have some ideas or questions in mind, and they just want others to brainstorm during the meeting. Such lack-of-preparation meeting would end up achieve nothing.
In my previous company, I was always asked to attend some “pop-up” meetings. Those meetings were like pop-up stores that suddenly showed up. No one ever told me to attend before those meetings, but the topics of those meeting were crucial to me. As a result, I had no choice but to attend them without any preparation.
Some of those meetings were about some topics that was directly related to my work, so I could easily give responses in those meeting. Some of them, however, might involve some analysis and preparation and I might turn out keep silent during those meetings. This always resulted in extra meetings in the future.
Things become different when I start working in my current company. My current boss expect everyone to be well prepared before the meetings, so he creates a culture in the company that everyone should be given sufficient time for preparation before attending any meeting. As such, people don’t have any excuse of not studying the topics of the meetings before attending the meetings.
Attending meeting is not like watching movies. We might choose to skip the synopsis of the movies for any surprises brought by the stories, but if we use this attitude in attending meetings, we will make the meeting very inefficient.
2nd Way: Make Agenda
Agenda is important because it gives the attendants some ideas of what will be discussed in the meetings. This helps them to do preparation before head. Without proper agenda, we will not expect a good meeting.
I am having bi-weekly recurring meeting with my teammates now. As the host of the meeting, I always need to think of the topics of every meeting.
When I started hosting this meeting, I didn’t share any agenda to my teammates but just told them to give some updates of their work every time. I thought this was good to them as their updates would not be limited by my agenda.
I realized I was wrong very soon. My teammates didn’t know what to share during the meeting because the topic, “share the updates”, was too broad and they didn’t know what was important to share and what was not. That resulted in ineffective meeting and the team didn’t take away anything good from the meeting.
After I realized this issue, I started to let my teammate know the agenda of the meeting every time. I either wrote a simple agenda and sent it to my team, or I just told them a simple agenda in person. As long as my teammates knew what would be discussed in the meeting, they were fine to get that via email or via conversation.
Even a brainstorm meeting needs an agenda so that the attendants would know what to brainstorm, it is hard to believe that there is no agenda in a normal meeting. A meeting without direction is simply a chitchat.
3rd Way: Segregation of Duties
After a meeting, people need to know what they are responsible for, otherwise they cannot have follow up meeting afterwards. There is no point of having a meeting if all the attendants don’t know what they need to do for the issue.
One of my friend told me that he was disappointed every time when he attended inter-department meetings. As important issues were always brought up in the meeting, he always expect a detailed segregation of duties at the end of the meeting. At least he wanted to know what he was required to do before the next meeting.
However, every time the host didn’t summarize the meeting before dismissed, and the attendants were confused of their responsibilities on the issue. They could only depend on what they have heard during the meeting to guess their responsibilities. AS a result, sometimes they guessed correctly but sometimes they missed one or two responsibilities.
After all, all he needed was to have a clear instruction of who needed to do what duties before the next meeting. That could be easily summarized at the end of the meeting. Failing to do so would end up affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of the meeting.
A segregation of duties is important even when we are throwing a surprised birthday party for our friends. Otherwise, how can we know who is responsible for buying cakes, booking a party room, deciding the run down, etc?
4th Way: Time The Meeting
To be honest, I am afraid of attending meetings because I am afraid of spending too much time on them. It is normal for meetings to be overrun because neither the host nor the attendants don’t try to time the meetings. In fact, it is crucial to time the meetings because it is not fair to use up valuable time of everyone by any meetings.
Yesterday I had a meeting with overseas colleagues at 3pm regarding to some Accounting issues. I went through the issues one by one with my colleagues and eventually spent 3 hours on that meeting which I thought I could finish it in 1 hour. It turned out that I spent the whole afternoon only on a single meeting.
When I was in the commute back to my home, I kept thinking the reasons of the overrun. Eventually I figured the main reason of overrun was that I didn’t intend to time my meeting. I tried to include everything in that single meeting, ignoring the fact that both me and my colleagues had other jobs to do.
I later learnt that they worked until 11pm that night in order to get their own task done.
In fact it is not normal to time a meeting, not even take a look at the clock during the meeting. It is because normally we are too focus on the topics in the meeting that we totally forget about the efficiency of the meeting.
In general, a normal meeting should be done within an hour so that the attendants can focus on the most important parts of the topics and increase the efficiency of the meeting.
5th Way: Follow up
It will be an ineffective meeting if no one is going to follow up what was left behind in the last meeting. Follow up meeting is important because it helps the host to evaluate the progress of the tasks and whether there are some new challenges in the tasks.
My friend told me one of his poor experiences of attending a meeting. That was about launching a new billing system in the company. He attended that meeting with other department leaders and discussed how to make the system transition smooth.
However, after the 1st meeting had been ended, no one mentioned anything about the date of the next meeting. It seemed that no one expected a follow up meeting afterward. Although my friend knew what he needed to do, he didn’t know how to update others on the work he was working on (simply by email? or there would be another meeting in the future?).
Eventually, the host held another meeting after 1 month.
When the host expects a series of meeting on certain topics, he / she should make it a recurring meeting so that all the attendants know when they need to report the update after finishing one meeting. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page of any project and give an effective meeting.
Having a meeting is not like chitchat with others. We are willing to spend some time on a meeting mainly because we want to discuss some important issues with others. Therefore, it is important to make the meeting efficient and effective. To conclude, there are 5 ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of meetings:
- 1st Way: Full Preparation
- 2nd Way: Make Agenda
- 3rd Way: Segregation of Duties
- 4th Way: Time The Meeting
- 5th Way: Follow up
If you have any questions or have anything things to share, or you would like to be a partner authors with me, you can reach out to me via email email@example.com.
Besides, if you want to know more about what I have learnt from other successful people, you can click the below link. This could the one of the life-changing articles for you: