Many professionals dread meetings. They feel like a drain on our precious time. There’s always someone who talks too much and makes the meeting run long. Some meetings seem to exclusively repeat information that everyone already has; others assume everyone already has more information than they do; and still others use the time to cover the gory details of information that should be sent ahead as preparation for the meeting (or afterward as follow-up to the meeting).
But finding time to touch base with the entire team truly is important for any organization. Meetings ensure that everyone is “on the same page,” they provide a time to delegate tasks with the feeling of full accountability to one’s peers, and they provide a natural time frame for completing tasks (by the next meeting!)
There are some simple things you can do to make sure meetings are a practical good use of everyone’s time:
Provide an agenda. An agenda-less meeting is hard to control if you are the leader and hard to follow if you are a participant.
Limit “ice breakers.” Ice breakers can be a great way for everyone to get to know each other and relax at a meeting, but they can take up a lot of time—especially if everyone present already knows each or a few participants get long-winded with what they are sharing. Limit ice breakers to the very first time any group meets.
Prevent hijackings. Don’t let participants hijack the meeting by going off topic, skipping around the agenda, or distracting other participants with highly emotional content. This is easy to control if the person leading the meeting says something like “I’ll put that on the agenda for our next meeting,” “We’ll get to that in a few minutes when that item comes up on the agenda,” or “You and I can talk about that [emotional content] one-on-one at a later time.”
Make sure everyone knows what they have to do by the next meeting: what work has to get done, how that work has to be presented at the meeting, and what to do should any questions arise before the next meeting.
Don’t let the meeting continue virtually. Meetings are good precisely to handle the kinds of things that are badly handled by technology: large-group conversations, consensus-building, and decision-making. Email is a horrible venue for a group of people to have discussions, make decisions that can truly be acted upon, or vote. And when emails or texts related to meeting content continue to fly between meetings, participants start to wonder why there even are meetings if the conversation constantly bleeds over into other communications.
That’s the “what “ of the meeting presentation mode. The “how” will be covered in the “Meetings” workshop on Monday, October 22nd in all sections of the course “Spanish for Professional and Community Engagement” at UNC-CH.