By Joshua Liberman, Net Sciences, Inc. and member of The ASCII Group since 1996
Who loves meetings? How about a quick show of virtual hands — who loves meetings? Immortalized in countless movies, poorly run meetings are the bane of anyone’s work day. Many meetings — even in small business — are boring, ineffective, and wasteful. The good news is we can fix this, together.
Stick to the agenda. Nothing is more important than having a specific agenda with concrete issues to address. If you are calling the meeting, you need to know what needs to be accomplished. If you are attending the meeting and you see that there is no obvious agenda, speak out and get the leader to provide guidance. Many a meeting has foundered on the rocks of the seemingly irresistible urge to veer off into topics that are not on the agenda with no time allocated for them. If you are concerned this will happen to you, put that agenda in writing. Then print it out, put up a slide on a screen, or send out an email that fully enumerates the meeting agenda. You can always move off-agenda items to a separate discussion, or even plan a separate meeting. Whatever you do, be sure to stick to the agenda.
Stay on point. Another crucial issue is every meeting should have a leader driving it and making sure everyone stays on point. Even with good leadership, larger meetings almost always fall prey to the “ramblers” who want to discuss problems with a coworker or something they have seen on social media. Effective leaders learn how to drive the meeting, while staying on point, even when it means gracefully managing the ramblers in the group. If legitimate concerns arise that will require additional time, break out a subset of attendees and address those issues separately. Be ruthless about this, and don’t be afraid to refer to the agenda (see above) to enforce your guidance. You can always have a smaller breakout if necessary to handle these concerns off-line, but even then remember to stay on point.
Enforce a timeframe. Never start a meeting if you don’t know precisely when it will end. That means if you have 30-minutes booked for the meeting, plan on ending it at 25 minutes. Assume you will run long, and let time be your master. This is easier to do if you pay attention to the first two rules about sticking to the agenda and staying on point. Some meetings require input from various attendees, so for those be sure everyone participating understands their part and their allocated time. This is naturally easier to do in smaller groups, but even then it helps to set a “hard deck” or enforced timeframe. If you really want to be sure to end a meeting on time, schedule it to finish at the end of a work day, as nobody wants to stay late for a meeting. Let the end of the day enforce a timeframe.
End meetings with action items. If you’ve ever done any marketing you know how important it is to provide your target market with a “call to action.” Unless the only purpose of your meeting was to share information with a team, you will need to end your meetings with action items. Make these items simple and measurable, set a timeframe for completion, and follow up. If you focus on ending every meeting with a brief summary and concise action items, you will find you accomplish more in less time. And you’ll dread meetings less. In our weekly staff meetings, we open each meeting with a very quick review of any action items that are still open from the past weekly staff meeting. And of course, we close with assignments for each of us, so that we all have our action items.
Bonus round. For today’s bonus round, if you are planning to hold a truly short meeting consider having everyone stand up. This is guaranteed to shorten any meeting. Use these tips to maximize the value and minimize the duration of meetings, preserving the most precious resource of any MSP, time.
About The Author
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is a vibrant reseller community of independent MSPs, VARs, and other solution providers. Formed in 1984, ASCII has more than 70 programs that provide turnkey cost-cutting strategies, innovative business building programs, and extensive peer interaction. ASCII members enjoy benefits such as marketing support; educational information; group purchasing power; increased leverage in the marketplace; and multiple networking opportunities. These programs enable ASCII members to increase revenue, lower operating costs, and grow service opportunities. ASCII is the oldest and largest group of independent information technology (IT) solution providers, integrators and value added resellers (VARs) in the world. Learn more at www.ascii.com.