Many of our clients struggle with the topic of meetings, and that’s a big reason why one of Pluma’s core leadership competencies is ‘Managing Meetings’. Most clients report that their calendars are often filled with meetings, leaving little time for them to do work and manage their teams.
In this context, we look at meetings in two categories:
- meetings you lead
- meetings you attend
Most people feel that the meetings they lead are important and necessary, but given how busy we all are, it can be difficult to make sure others see it that way, too.
To drive engagement with your meetings consider these tactics:
- Don’t have the meeting (surprise!) — the core feature of a meeting is that it is a chance for synchronous (simultaneous) communication. Whether in person or via phone or video, ask yourself, is synchronous communication essential to this purpose. Times when the answer might be ‘yes’ are when external stakeholders are involved, a debate or discussion needs to happen, you need to drive interaction between groups, or when an issue is complicated or likely to create conflict that will be good to address immediately.
An example of when the answer might be ‘no’ is when you have 30 slides prepared and you plan to take everyone on the team through them one-by-one because you are worried that they won’t look at your deck otherwise. In this scenario, can you send the presentation to individuals directly and highlight the 2–3 slides that might be especially important for them to review and comment on? Can you ask them to get back to you by a specific day with their feedback? Giving colleagues a specific focus and timeline can prompt them to engage without requiring them to sacrifice 60 minutes to the cause.
- Shorten the meeting — just because 30 minutes and 60 minutes are typical meeting lengths, doesn’t mean they are optimal timeframes. Try scheduling meetings for 15 or 45 minutes. These shorter segments are likely to encourage people to come on time, and send a signal of efficiency.
- Alter the cadence of the meeting — is this a meeting you have on the books every week? Could it be just as useful to have it biweekly or once every three weeks? Weekly is often a default for repeat meetings, but when meetings are scheduled too frequently, attendees may consistently deprioritize them for more pressing matters.
- Categorize some attendees as optional — do you know who are the ‘must-haves’ and who are the ‘nice-to-haves’ for a given meeting? Most calendar systems allow you to invite an attendee as optional, so be sure to take advantage of this feature. This way colleagues know they are welcome to join, but that that they can be updated after without feeling like they’ve let you down.
- Share an agenda — never schedule a meeting without an agenda. Agendas should be quick bullet points of what you plan to discuss and accomplish and can be included in the meeting invite itself. Including an agenda makes sure people come prepared and lets them know that you are making good use of their time.
- Take minutes — minutes can be high-level, but always be sure to capture decisions and next steps. After a meeting, email the minutes to all invitees so that everyone is on the same page. Minutes formalize the meeting and are great for people to refer back to when topics come up in the future.
- Offer snacks — this is an easy win. Everyone loves snacks.
To deal with meetings you have been invited to, you can use a number of the tips above with adjustments.
- Ask what time your part will come up — if it’s a 60 minute meeting, but you’re only needed for the second half, that’s a great thing to find out. This question can also encourage the meeting leader to share an agenda since that’s how you will know when you’re needed.
- Clarify if you’re needed — are you a ‘must-have’ attendee or is your presence not necessary? A gentle way to ask this is “Am I a must-have attendee? I appreciate your invite and just want to make sure I can add value.”
- Request an agenda — you can politely request an agenda without ruffling any feathers by saying “Just got your invite, trying to prioritize a hectic week and would love to know what items we’ll be discussing so that I can make sure to come prepared.”
- Offer to take minutes — this is a great way to lead by example and support others within your organization. Share your minutes with the meeting host so they can disseminate.
Enough from us! We would love to hear about your meeting management experience and tips and tricks on this 30-second survey. Respondents will receive a report with the results.