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Special Events: Planning for Success

20 Ways to Run a Shorter, More Effective Meeting

Professionals are estimated to spend between 25% to 60% of their time in meetings and of that, 50% is unproductive. If these figures hit home with you, here are some ways to shorten the time you spend meeting and improve the usefulness of those you do hold.       

  1. Have a clear purpose. Know what you want to accomplish. Define the meeting's objective and plan to reach it--a meeting without an objective is a waste of time.
  2. Is a meeting necessary? Can your objective be accomplished without a meeting? Is a meeting the best use of your time? Objectives can often be achieved in a brief telephone conference call instead of an in-person meeting.
  3. Keep it small. Invite only people who are essential to accomplishing your purpose. Large groups inhibit the flow of ideas and slow the pace of real accomplishment.
  4. Keep it short. Meetings should never last more than an hour; shorter is better.
  5. Make an agenda. A written agenda will keep attention focused, save time, and get results. Avoid unfocused, rambling sessions.
  6. Communicate the purpose. Inform participants as to the meeting's purpose beforehand in a short e-mail memo or in an introductory paragraph to the meeting's agenda. State the meeting's objective, issues to be discussed, time to begin and end, the place, names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of participants, any preparation needed, and items and information to bring along.  
  7. Start early. Call the meeting for first thing in the morning so that people can stop on their way to work, before they fall behind in the day's schedule or get bogged down in problems at their own offices.  
  8. Cool air, bright lights. People are more alert in a cool room with bright lighting.
  9. Get a good seat. When you're running the meeting, sit in the "power seat," that is, at a point on the table farthest from the door where everyone can see and hear you. To be an effective meeting participant, sit opposite the meeting leader so that you can talk directly to her and also establish good visual contact with other participants.
  1. Begin promptly. Wait for key people; after they have arrived, begin. Don't waste time and interrupt progress by stopping discussion to review proceedings for latecomers. Instead, keep the meeting moving, and fill-in latecomers after adjourning.
  2. Hold all calls. Don't allow phone calls or other interruptions. This includes text messaging. People who are paying full attention can accomplish the goal more quickly.  
  3. Check the AV.  Check and double-check all audio/visual equipment before the meeting starts. To avoid compatibility problems, ask presenters to bring their own laptops.
  4. Be dynamic. When you speak, lean slightly forward and sit on the edge of your seat to communicate alertness, energy, and intensity.
  5. Make progress. Discuss one issue at a time; don't skip around. If an issue cannot be resolved, assign the subject to a sub-committee for further study.
  6. Get your point across. Prepare notes in advance of the meeting so that you don't forget important points.
  7. Show and tell. Use visual aids such as flip charts, overheads, slides, and videos as tools for clear communication. Keep presentations short.
  8. Vote. Limit circuitous discussion and settle unresolved differences by taking a vote. Move on to another topic.
  9. Keep a record. Take meeting minutes and distribute them before the next meeting. Minutes serve as a reminder of who promised to do what by when.
  10. Meet first, then eat. Eating and drinking (especially a heavy lunch or alcoholic beverages) can make participants lethargic. First conduct the meeting, then serve food and drinks. This also helps prevent participants from expending their limited time over dinner, then having to leave before important business is discussed.
  11. End on time. Set an ending time and
    stick to it.