It's something that we all have experienced and we all dread: the really long meeting that goes nowhere and gets nothing done. Why do these meetings happen? Who organizes them? How do they sleep at night? If I was to hazard a guess, I would think that these meetings aren't really for productivity, but to impress someone's boss. In any case, if you have the power and ability, please thwart long, useless meetings and replace them with something that will help, rather than hurt.
Two articles brought this important subject to my attention. One was from Harvard Business Publishing, and the other from the SmallBizResource blog. Some suggestion for more effective meetings can be found in both articles. For example, a great way to keep meetings short and on-point is the "stand-up" meeting. For this kind of meeting, you will not need chairs. Have your people literally stand around the conference table for the duration of the meeting. This will ensure that people keep their responses short and help to progress the agenda to a quick finish.
A big tip for short effective meetings is to not have a meeting. That's right, if you can accomplish the work through phone calls, conference calls, emails, or even text messages, don't call a meeting. This is the same principle behind abolishing weekly meetings, progress meetings, and other such get-togethers that only exist because someone thought it would be good for "synergy" -- or what you - if everyone met at a regular time. The reoccurring meeting guarantees two things: time will be wasted because there aren't enough items to cover, and someone will be frantically creating something at the last minute to look productive for the meeting.
Your caveat for meetings should be "less is more." This means shorter time lengths of course, but also smaller groups of attendees. With fewer participants, people will be less likely to snooze or cruise through a meeting. You will be able to notice the more quiet attendees and ask for their input. When everyone works together, you get better results. However, more people talking encourages digressions and other time-wasters. To stay in control, identify a digression and write it down. Promise everyone that it will be the star of another meeting - if they so choose - and move on. Also, don't be afraid to politely cut-off long-winded monologue speakers.
Video conferences aren't as real as, say, shaking someone's hand, but they are very effective when replacing unnecessary meetings. For a good, efficient meeting, get the two or three people that are actually needed into a video conference. They don't have to leave their desks - or wherever they are - and you can conduct your business efficiently. And if you need more insurance that the video conference won't go long, have everyone pull back from their webcams and stand for the entire meeting.
Posted by George Page, Communication Specialist