The first step to conquering a problem is admitting that the problem exists, so let’s just admit it; meetings are inefficient. The chance of something being discussed that is relevant to 100% of the attendees 100% of the time is extremely small. It is your job to make sure relevant things are being discussed so time is used efficiently.
There is hope! It’s become common knowledge that we need to fix meetings, so here are a few tips to accomplish exactly that:
- Start on time
Chicken or egg?: Do meetings start late because people arrive late or do people arrive late because meetings start late?
Starting the meeting at its scheduled time can save precious minutes. As people filter into the meeting, there is often time taken for small talk and catching up between co-workers who do not often interact with one another. This creates for important camaraderie in an office that leads to more productivity, but it detracts from the purpose of your meeting. There will be time at the end for chit-chat.
It may take some time for attendees to pick up on the trend, but starting the meeting at its designated start time is a commitment that will set the tone for getting things done.
- Create an agenda and stick to it
Deviating from the agenda is an easy way to lose track of time. Your agenda should address a few specific topics that are relevant to all attendees. Assigning time to each agenda item helps to maintain focus and save follow-up conversations for later.
Similar to starting on time, sticking to an agenda can be challenging, but can save precious minutes. Any topics that deviate from the agenda can be saved for another conversation as they likely do not pertain to the whole group.
- Determine concrete action items
The purpose of a meeting is to get everyone on the same page and ready to take care of business when the meeting is adjourned. Your time with everyone in the same room is the opportunity to determine what must happen next and who is responsible.
Clarify what the goals are, but do not get wrapped up in details of how things will move forward during the meeting. These steps can be taken afterward between the individuals involved.
- If you don’t need a meeting, don’t have one.
What are your goals? Can they be accomplished with a phone call or email? If so, then a meeting is not necessary.
Meetings are so commonly inefficient that people like me are writing blog posts about making them more efficient. The best way to extinguish inefficiencies is to keep them from happening in the first place.
Fast Company includes canceling unnecessary meetings in their post about creating your most productive day. Follow their advice by determining if the meeting is necessary. If the tasks being discussed can be discussed via phone or email, then cancel the meeting. Phone calls are short and sweet. Emails are addressed in convenient bursts. These options can replace 30-60 minutes spent in a conference room together.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.