We’ve all been here – a meeting invite with minimal or no detail appears in our inbox. You gaze wistfully at the mile-long task list on your desk but show up to the meeting anyway, notepad in hand, hoping this time will be well spent. Fifteen minutes in and you’re doing your best to appear interested, but you can’t ignore the nagging question in your mind, “Why am I even here?!”
Meetings are often seen as a necessary evil of the modern workplace, especially when you’re not the organizer. Yet meetings serve a necessary purpose – they are where we connect, collaborate, and, essentially, where a company’s culture perpetuates itself. Here are three tips to ensure you are able to make the most of your time spent in meetings:
1. Treat the agenda as a collaborative effort.
The best meeting agendas are ones that draw from the input of all participants. The next time you scan a meeting agenda, use it as a chance to become involved in the meeting before it even begins. Offer up items you’d like to add, and make recommendations on what topics you feel are priority. Additionally, ask the organizer what you can do to prepare, such as materials to review pre-meeting, information you may be able to contribute, etc.
Another solution for an agenda-less meeting is to request clarity around meeting roles. For example, are you a stakeholder in a decision being made? Are you acting as representative for your department or team? Are you providing new ideas or a fresh set of eyes? When you know specifically why the organizer included you on the invite list, you’re better able to manage expectations.
2. Designate a Time Keeper.
When it comes to meetings, one of the top complaints we hear from clients is that time was mismanaged – the meeting either ran over, started late, or too much / not enough time was devoted to specific agenda items.
If you sense the meeting has potential to get off track, raise your hand to act as time keeper or suggest this role. Time keeper is an often overlooked but enormously beneficial role. You’re responsible for keeping the discussion on track with the allotted agenda times by guiding the meeting, rather than policing it. For example, if the group is in deep discussion and close to running over time on an agenda item, offer up the option to move on or continue to stay on that point (and renegotiate times allotted to other items).
Additionally, the time keeper role takes some of the pressure off the meeting leader to be solely responsible for steering the ship, and other attendees will be grateful for the efforts to remain timely. Everyone wins.
3. Spark a conversation with your team about meeting agreements.
Often, frustrations around meeting culture in an organization stem from a lack of agreement; everyone has a different idea of the role meetings should play in the company. A great solution is to start a discussion, perhaps beginning with your team, about when meetings should be scheduled, how agendas should be handled, and who should be in attendance. When everyone is on the same page, meetings become a whole lot more productive (and enjoyable!).
~ Jessica Kingman
Performance Specialist & Engagement Leader