Let’s assume that in your career so far you’ve had many opportunities, or shall we say misfortune, to participate in bad meetings. And when we say bad meetings, basically it means that they didn’t have a purpose, they were a waste of valuable time, nothing changed after the meeting, there wasn’t any progress made or in a nutshell, they were unnecessary and simply a nuisance.
Effective meetings are important for decision making, planning, execution, developing responsibility and ownership and other activities that contribute to any company’s success.
Who to blame for bad meetings?
Who called a meeting? The leader did. How often do leaders make a self-assessment? How honest are they when they eventually do that? And how often do they check on their performance with people who attend their meetings? Rarely or never. Leaders are way too often under the impression that having rich and long experience in running meetings gives them the right to think that they know everything there is to know about running meetings. Therefore, they don’t find improving their skills necessary nor do they think they should ask the attendees for feedback. On the other hand, attendees often come to meetings with assumptions that it is going to be yet another waste of their precious time since they are distracted from the “real” work. Depending on the personality, some people see meetings as a chance to get together and catch upon recent news, others are frustrated because they don’t know why they were invited or what the topic is, while others consider meetings as excellent opportunities to stand out, be in charge and take the lead.
Bad meeting effects
Both leaders and attendees can be blamed for bad meetings – everyone who’s a part of the process is responsible for its effectiveness. Both sides could be experiencing the effects of bad meetings and those can vary from mild to strong. Sometimes it can lead to a phenomenon dubbed “meeting recovery syndrome.” And we didn’t just make that up, seriously, it’s a thing ;). It occurs when the effects of a bad meeting linger for hours in the form of attendee grousing and complaining.
What to do?
Naturally, a simple solution to all this is to eliminate all meetings because they harm productivity and work atmosphere. However, the goal should not be to kill all meetings but to eliminate the ineffective or unnecessary ones and improve the quality of those that remain. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Everyone involved in the process should make certain efforts to achieve that.
The role of a meeting leader
Meeting leaders are often the ones who enjoy the meetings most. Very often they are the ones who do most of the talking. The problem is that they fail to fulfil their supporting role as facilitators. The leaders should embrace the fact that they are more powerful when guiding the conversation, controlling the flow and the outcome of the meeting and encouraging others to speak up as opposed to being autocratic or focused solely on the sound of their own voice. The attendees will appreciate those types of leaders more and the meetings will be more sensible and productive if everyone gets a chance to leave their mark.
The importance of preparation
Many meeting leaders don’t question themselves or their meetings. The leader should assess whether a certain topic is relevant enough to call a meeting – if there is a cheaper or a quicker way to solve an issue, the meeting is not the answer. When the meeting is inevitable, preparation is a must and shouldn’t be skipped. Just to name a few parameters of a successful preparation– everyone should be clear on what the topic is, what needs to be achieved, who is involved, how we will measure success and what the deadlines are. The attendees should be aware of their role at the meeting and come prepared – having the agenda in mind, everyone should (considering their positions and roles) explore and gather relevant information necessary for participating in the meeting, prepare arguments or bring concrete ideas or solutions depending on the type of a meeting and its topic.
Communication at the meeting
With the help of their leader’s guidance and facilitation the attendees should make sure that everyone gets an opportunity to express themselves. Every attendee has an equal right to speak their mind, but it often happens that not everyone exploits that right equally.
When it comes to creative meetings or when it is necessary to gather new ideas and suggestions, it would be beneficial for shy participants who rarely speak up to use the method of brainwriting – this approach yields more creative thinking than brainstorming because it enables individuals to quietly reflect and write down their ideas before sharing them out loud. On the other hand, brainstorming often benefits only the loud attendees who outshine the quiet ones, even though the latter could have good ideas too.
It is imperative to control the course of the meeting and this is where the leader’s role as a facilitator is crucial – he should take care of the flow of the discussion, make sure it doesn’t get out of hand and manage time appropriately.
We mentioned just a few situations and examples in which meetings can have a negative impact and leave a bad taste in your mouth. We are sure that you could name a few examples yourself. The fact is that meetings are still an absolute necessity in today’s business world and should be accepted as such. The good thing is that we are not helpless because there are various ways in which we can help ourselves. Meeting skills involve various business and communication skills such as assertiveness, conflict management, negotiating, time management, business etiquette and emotional intelligence, and their ratio varies depending on the type of the meeting. Since everyone is different and already owns a specific set of skills, it’s only natural that it can sometimes lead to difficult situations at meetings. That is precisely why it is imperative to take action and put the right skill in good use in a given situation.
So what have we done? We’ve put all of the aforementioned skills in one place, picked the essentials needed for effective meetings and created Meeting Skills, an online course that enables self-paced learning when and where you prefer. Do yourself a favour and invest time in sprucing up those skills that can benefit you as a meeting leader or an attendee, improve your communication skills, your relationships with others, and maybe have an impact on your career as well.