by Bill Hellkamp

Meetings are an important part of our business life. They offer an opportunity to share ideas and create new ones. They allow for a chance to communicate crucial information to our team. And they give groups a forum in which to make decisions that will direct their future. But because many of them have been so poorly conducted, most professionals dread being asked (or required) to attend. The biggest complaints: there are too many of them, they take too long, and little gets done.

Leaders cannot afford to waste their team’s time and expertise, so her are four ways to have more productive meeting and avoid the “dread”.

The Agenda – This is the most important tool you have for increasing the quality of your meetings. First of all, make one, as most meetings don’t have one at all and therefore get little accomplished. Second, get it done and out to the attendees at least a day before the meeting so that they can prepare and get their information together. Third, allow the participants to add their topics and issues to the agenda.

Invitees – Think carefully about whom you want attending the meeting. They should be those that:

-Bring value to the discussion and topic at hand

-Need to hear about the topic that is being discussed

-Are the decision makers

-Will be implementing the action items

Stay on Time – So many meetings start late while the leader waits for the stragglers to show up (or the team waits for the leader to show up). This wasted time is always at the top of the list for why people hate meetings. In fact, many team members purposely arrive late because they know that the meeting will start late. So here is our super obvious suggestion. Start the meeting at the scheduled time and do it consistently. Show respect to those that made it on time and those who are late will eventually learn to be prompt. You will gain respect and your meetings will run more efficiently.

Track Action Items – The other major complaint of meetings is that they don’t produce results. As the leader you can increase the productivity of your meeting by tracking and if necessary, assigning the action items. At the end of each agenda item recap the decisions that were made, what actions are going to be taken, who will do them and when it will get done. Make sure that there is agreement and that the person who volunteers or is assigned thoroughly understands their responsibility. After the meeting, stay in touch and make sure that the action items actually get completed.

We all know that meetings are an important and inevitable part of business life. Show your leadership by running them in a professional and productive manner.

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