12 New Tips for Effective Meetings

Here are twelve tips to help you to hold more effective meetings and to become a better leader.

  1. Ask everyone to arrive five to ten minutes early. This gives everyone time to socialize, obtain coffee, or organize materials before the meeting. It also ensures that everyone is present at the scheduled starting time. Make this part of the agenda.
  2. Discuss sensitive issues with the key participants before the meeting. Use this as an opportunity to listen and gather information on the issues. From this you will understand the different views, needs, and histories. This information can help you prepare the agenda and conduct the meeting. In addition, you may be able to facilitate solutions or strategies for solutions before the meeting. In either case, the result will be a more efficient meeting.
  3. Plan small meetings that focus on a single issue. People work more effectively over short periods of time (such as 45 minutes). This also allows you to match experts with issues for more productive meetings.
  4. Only invite those who can contribute to at least 50% of the items on the agenda. For meetings lasting more than 30 minutes, invite special participants only to the part of the meeting that deals with their contribution.
  5. Send copies of the minutes to everyone who could have been invited for information purposes. They can read the minutes in a small fraction of the time that they would have been spent in the meeting.
  6. When invited to a meeting with a vague (or missing) agenda, ask: what role will I have? Why do you need me? If your impact is minor, refuse to attend and use the time for other work. Meeting planners often attempt to add importance to a meeting by inviting prominent members of the organization.
  7. If the chairperson seems to have allowed the meetings intent to drift, ask: “What do you want to achieve?” or “How can we help you?” or “How will we know when we are done working on this?” These questions can help focus the meeting on a goal.
  8. If a meeting seems out of control, suggest adjourning and reconvening at a later time. This will allow you to clarify goals, prepare strategies, and better understand the issues.
  9. Reflect on the content of key points. This ensures that everyone has the same understanding of the key point. Although this is one of the chairperson’s responsibilities, it can be filled by anyone else in the meeting.
  10. Prepare a list of questions, ideas, suggestions before the meeting. Then you can focus your attention on the discussion in the meeting.
  11. Watch the other attendees instead of the speaker. Their faces and body language will tell you whether they agree or disagree, which can help guide your participation in the discussion.
  12. Work with a sense of appropriate urgency. Life is finite, and the discussions in meetings should be the same. Plan a time budget and then use it to guide your meeting. Spend extra time only when an issue warrants it.

Action Versus Inaction

Should we ‘do’ or should we ‘not do’?

Summer is a great antidote to long cold winters. It is the same with action and inaction. Action is a powerful antidote to the stagnation of inactivity. Being creatively alive involves abandoning a position of inaction in circumstances which have traditionally immobilized you. The name of the game is action – doing. Overcoming your inertia and acting will give you a whole new lease on being creatively alive.

Action is the single most effective antidote to anxiety, stress, fear, worry, guilt, and of course, immobility. It is virtually impossible to be depressed and active at the same time. Even if you wanted to, it is difficult to keep on moping, complaining, lolling around and wallowing in self-pity if you get active and do something. Anything!

Lack of action is not a result of depression; it is the cause. Don’t be paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake. Taking action, gives you momentum. Initiating the effort attracts opportunities and synergistic things happen.

Inactivity, on one hand, is most often a choice rather than an inescapable fact of life, while action is a definite way to avoid being victimized by yourself or others. If you decide to do something about your problem or challenge, rather than grumble about it, you will be on the road to changing things around for yourself. When you take action, you also take control. It is thinking retrospectively that can keep you a prisoner of the past. Action puts you in control of the future.

If you find yourself asking, “Yes, but what can I do,” the answer is very, very simple. Anything is a lot more effective than nothing.

This old proverb has a lot of truth in it: even when you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. With this in mind, whenever you find yourself at a juncture in either your domestic of your work-life, make a conscious decision to take some kind of action. Upon reflection, people normally have more regrets about actions they did not take but which they could of taken, rather than those actions they actually took forward!

Managing Your Time

What is the best way to approach prioritizing tasks?

In order to choose and prioritize tasks you must have a list! List all your tasks, then rate them, and list them again in order. Then you can schedule them. When all tasks have been are rated, use the following additional filters to prioritize them further:

  1. Imagine the consequences of eliminating the task – this exercise will often remove some unneeded tasks altogether.
  2. Decide if each task should be performed in prime time or secondary time.
  3. Determine who will be affected by the task.

Now Reduce Your List. Until we can effectively clone ourselves to be in more than one place at a time, most of us need to reduce our workload. Before you start prioritizing, consider these task elimination criteria:

Does This Task or Project Make Sense?

Every task you do should first have to pass this benchmark. You have goals, priorities, and objectives. Does every task contribute to your big picture?  Estimate how much time each task will take, and then imagine what you would do with the time if the task were cancelled. While not always possible, everything you do should contribute to your objectives.

Why is the Task Urgent?

While urgency should be a mindset of business, urgency should also be questioned – ruthlessly.

Is the urgency only appeasing someone else?

What has caused the urgency? Many urgent situations have been caused by mistakes. Determining the cause of urgency can eliminate or postpone a task and lead to prevention measures of interruptions and mistakes.  Some seemingly imperative tasks are not urgent at all. Customers might be making demands that are unnecessary so check with all parties involved.

The Delegation Qualifier

Are you the only person that can handle the task? Sometimes you might be, but many times someone else can perform for you. Delegate everything possible to free up your schedule.

How Else Could the Task Be Done?

Are you utilizing technology to your best advantage? Could a face-to-face appointment be substituted by a phone call? Conference calling can rule out travel and save an enormous amount of time. Could you email instead of calling?

Can the Task Be Dissected?

Are there portions of the work that can be delegated, eliminated, or postponed?

What is the Cost of Excluding a Task?

There are many jobs throughout the day that are actually not worth the time to do. Applying a £sterling figure when considering cancelling a task is another measure of the task value.

One great trick for prioritizing is to give every task a deadline.

While many SME owners define a start time for projects and tasks when planning, they do not establish a deadline.  Having a clear deadline makes tasks easier to prioritize.

Prioritizing Interruptions

While most people are familiar with prioritizing tasks, few people prioritize their interruptions. Hence, few people have defined the types of events that interrupt them.

Define Interruption Types

In order to take control of your time, you must minimize interruptions. Many SME owners describe their positions as managers, and define management as ‘putting out fires,’ or solving problems.  While having a job definition for yourself is a great start, most owners have not defined or classified these problems. They just catch every ball tossed at them.  The tail is often wagging the dog.

Think about how you are interrupted from your OUT or productive work. Make a list of every kind of interruption you have experienced in the last three months and think about how you will deal with similar interruptions in future.

What are BIG’s tips for managing your time?

Create a list and prioritize your tasks but always keep in mind the measures of task value:

Money – How much is the task worth?
Time – How much time will it take?
Effect – Completed versus Cancelled
Effectiveness – What is the most effective way to perform the task?
Contribution to Your Objectives
Replacement – (What could be done with the time instead?)
Division- Dividing the Task into Parts
When – Can the task be performed just as well in secondary time?