With most meetings occurring online, I’m hearing about the frustrations of time wasted during meetings from leaders and teams’ members alike. Meetings are running overtime. The structure is lost. People can’t make it to their meetings on time – even virtually! Some people talk too much while others never utter a word.
Working from home hasn’t helped – as a matter of fact it seems to be the culprit. Meetings online can be scheduled within a minute of one another since there is no travel time. However, there is no time to pivot from one to the next and if one runs long – the rest are a lost cause with respect to being on time. Since we spend the majority of the day working in an office at home by ourselves, those who are more desirous of human contact and conversation might be a little extra ‘chatty’ when in meetings. While others are less comfortable speaking up in this online arena.
Despite the fact that people in your meetings may long to connect – most of the attendees also have other meetings and commitments that they must still get to. So, here is a way to get everyone’s needs met:
If you are LEADING – Here is what you can do better:
- Make sure that an agenda is sent prior to the meeting to all invited.
- Resist the temptation to put too many topics in one meeting. People only have so much bandwidth.
- Ask attendees in advance if they will contribute where appropriate – put their name on the agenda
- Stick to the timeline of the meeting so if anyone needs to drop off early, they’ll know what they may miss
- If someone talks longer than time has been allocated, despite the temptation to let people talk, it is your responsibility as the meeting initiator to keep schedule adherence.
- Start the meeting on time. That is the respectful thing to do as it honors those who were prompt.
- Schedule those presenting topics well in advance to avoid potential conflicts.
- Don’t recap what has happened thus far in the meeting for people who are late – that will disrespect those who heard it the first time around as well as set a precedent that being late will be ‘rewarded.’ Not to mention this wastes time and could make THIS meeting run late, thus perpetuating the late-cycle.
- Schedule an additional meeting or ‘social’ time online for people to chat. Or set aside time at a meeting just for that purpose – but make it clear in advance that time is being set aside for everyone to share.
- You may want to come up with something fun to have everyone weigh in on – something universal – such as their favorite kind of pizza. Good ice breakers get even shy people to talk. You can even create small ‘breakout rooms’ for a larger group and give everyone something to talk about so they get to know one another on a more personal level. Just make sure that this is in the agenda and time is allocated for it.
After a meeting, the initiator of the meeting should send an email recapping the events and discussions from the meeting and the commitments made during it. This will help those who may have had to leave early, or who showed up late, or those who just ‘spaced-out’ to feel they are up to speed on all the crucial aspects.
NOW – If you are ATTENDING – Here is what you can do better:
- Check your email prior to the meeting to see if any new information has been sent that you may need to deal with in the meeting
- Turn off your alerts, phone, etc. (airplane mode???) so you are able to be engaged in the meeting – close tabs on your computer and pause any videos you may have been listening to.
- Jot down notes if you have something to contribute in the meeting and get your comments down to the most succinct commentary to avoid wasting everyone else’s time
- Be on time. Chime in a couple of minutes early even so when the meeting starts you are ready to participate and listen.
- If you don’t have anything to contribute then keep quiet so there is time for those who do have something important to say to do so.
- If your feedback is not related to the topic at hand, send an email to the appropriate people and don’t hog the meeting time.
Meetings make up a huge percentage of our work week – so keep them productive. Avoiding time being wasted benefits everyone involved. Don’t have a meeting just because you feel you are supposed to. If there is no real benefit that you can see, and you can send an email and get feedback from that instead, do so. Planning ahead for any meeting is the right thing to do – including determining if the meeting ought to happen at all. If you cannot attend each meeting you are invited to, let the planner know and be on time to the one(s) you can attend. Clear communication before, during and after meetings helps move your team, department, and the company forward. If your meeting isn’t doing that, reassess why you are having one.