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Be The Abbreviator

January 14, 2011

Nobody likes meetings. But nobody seems to know how to make them go away. We don’t have the answer either but we do have are a few tips to help shorten your next business epic.

1. Arm Yourself with the Agenda
Most meetings have agendas. But few of them get used properly. The agenda isn’t just a list of what to talk about, it’s a meter for measuring the progress of the meeting and a lever to move it along when it’s bogged down. Be the “agenda guy,” reminding people that you need to get to the next item before you all run out of time. It’s a great excuse to suggest that unresolved issues get tabled, worked on offline or postponed to the next inevitable meeting.

2. The Secret Ballot
Everybody knows that meetings without goals are a waste of time. A few of us even take the time to spell out those goals at the start of a meeting. What almost nobody does, however is to look at whether those goals were met at the end of the meeting. One way to implement this meeting post-mortem is to use a grading system. After each meeting, attendees slip a letter grade into a shoebox by the conference room door. Each grade should reflect one attendee’s opinion of how close the meeting came to meeting its goals. Consistently bad grades may be the lever you need to shake up how (and how often) meetings are run. You can even try to connect meeting grades to the bottom line with a Meeting ROI.

3. Threaten Longer Meetings
One reason meetings don’t work is that attendees don’t come prepared. They haven’t read the pre-meeting packet or taken the time for some other bit of homework intended to make the meeting go faster. One way around this is to offer attendees the option of even longer meetings. When planning a meeting, give attendees the choice of doing their pre-meeting homework in the first half-hour of the meeting. Most will get the idea.

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