Have you been at meetings lasting more than 2 hours and where participants tried to solve all problems in the world at once? When people lost their temper and tried to shut down their colleagues in order to find the right solution? When every meeting comes to nothing and participants swear that they will never gather for such pointless conferences again?

Conducting meetings is one of the key methods of personnel management. However, it’s very difficult to make them efficient.

Today we’ll talk about meetings meant for solving definite tasks.


What makes meetings efficient?

If we apply popular logics of ROI (return on investment) calculation to evaluation of meeting effectiveness, we’ll get the following:

meeting effectiveness = value of decisions made / (time spent on a meeting * quantity of participants * an average salary of participants)

It’s evident that if you increase the value of decisions you make during a meeting and decrease the time you spend on a meeting, the number of participants who attend them and exclude high-paid workers, you can maximize efficiency. The article will teach you how to get the most from meetings.


Getting ready for a meeting

Do you really need a meeting?

Conducting meetings is a symptom of bad companies. The fewer meetings you conduct, the better.

Peter Drucker “The Effective Executive”


As meetings cost a lot, their ROI is usually less than ROI of a call, correspondence or instant messages. A meeting is necessary only when other methods are ineffective. As a rule, there must be several of the following conditions:

  • complexity. A topic is so difficult that all the participants need to look through visual materials together in order not to fall out from the conversation flow. For example, a database architecture or complex business project of a credit application verification is discussed.
  • urgency. A topic discussed it so urgent that there’s no time for making up a plan of actions via e-mail.
  • importance. A topic discussed is so important that it covers all possible time expenditures of employees.

You can easily refuse from conducting meetings in all other cases. Just use an e-mail or phone conversation.


Define the goal of a meeting precisely

Just as any other undertaking, a meeting will fail without a clear goal.

The goal of any meeting is to make up a definite plan of actions. Not to “discuss possibilities”, not to “solve a task” but to “assign a task to somebody and set a deadline”. Any other goal may lead a meeting to nothing in the end.

That’s the reason why you should list participants, state problems you want to get plans of actions for and send the notification you’ve got.

A written notification will make people sure that they won’t waste their time on pointless discussion and the questions discussed will concern their interests. They will come to a meeting with suggestions and necessary data.

Questions for a meeting should be sorted by importance in case you won’t have enough time to discuss everything.


Don’t invite unnecessary participants

Each person on a meeting will inevitably waste mutual time making a speech or asking questions. But a possibility that an additional person knows something that others don’t decreases with a growing number of participants. I.e. in addition to an evident increase of time expenditures of a group, numerous participants decrease efficiency of a discussion.

It’s recommended not to exceed a limit of 5 participants. Ask yourself the following questions before inviting an employee to a meeting:

  • Does a person have exceptional knowledge on the topic that other participants don’t?
  • Is a person interested in the topic?
  • Do his/her interests coincide with the interests of any other participant?
  • Is a person ready for a constructive discussion?
  • Is it enough to just notify a person about results of a meeting?


Conducting a meeting

7 rules of conducting efficient meetings:

  1. One person speaks… Don’t let participants interrupt each other. It’s a sign of disrespect and people don’t try to understand each other which affects a meeting negatively.
  2. …others listen. All people at a meeting should follow a conversation. Everybody should have the same “picture” of a problem discussed. If there are several discussions in a group at the same time or somebody is distracted (for example, checking a mobile phone), you’ll waste your time until the group becomes united again. You’ll have to repeat everything that happened while somebody was “absent” which wastes time of other participants.
  3. Come to the point! Despite the fact that people want to relax and speak about abstract topics when they get tired, any step aside wastes other people’s time and postpones a solution. Get participants back to the topic mildly.
  4. Struggle with a problem, not with people. Sometimes people can make negative remarks about others. Suchlike situations will surely spoil a work atmosphere, create unnecessary tension, waste time and probably prevent you from achieving your goals. Stop a discussion at once if something similar happens.
  5. Write everything down. You or a meeting secretary can do it. Otherwise, a group can forget the facts and conclusions you made earlier and efficiency of a meeting will decrease. Besides, such notes help to save time. They allow a speaker to point to this or that note instead of explaining what he/she means exactly. All participants should see the notes (use a board for it).
  6. Make breaks. Use a “tomato” method (work in cycles: 5-minute rest, 25-minute work). Meetings which last more than an hour and a half lose their efficiency as participants get tired. It’s better to end them and continue tomorrow.
  7. If you don’t need group any more, finish a meeting. There are few complex questions left by the end of a meeting. If you understand that a problem falls to several tasks which need individual assignment, there’s no sense to waste group time on it. So, you can end the meeting now.


Role of a meeting organizer

A meeting organizer is responsible for making it efficient. You should:

  • watch that all rules of discussion are observed.
  • stop participants who violate the rules.
  • sum up group conclusions.
  • keep to a plan and define a moment when the group goes to another question.


Finishing a meeting

Go back to the main goal of a meeting at the end — making up a plan of actions. It should be written down in a report. The key thing here is contents, not a form.

A repost must:

  • be in a written form.
  • be clear and precise for everybody.
  • be easy to understand even in 3 months after a meeting.
  • contain tasks assigned to definite people and have clear deadlines.

Send it to all participants and other employees who are responsible for execution of report points.