Last May Microsoft reported the results of a study of millions of workers saying that average workers spend two full days a week in meetings and email. That’s 40% of the workweek without actually doing anything in the job description!

Meetings have taken over as a communication channel, instead of a collaboration and innovation event. The slow and steady transformation leaves most people doing their actual work on weekends and after hours. It is time to reclaim our professions, our creativity, and evaluate how our meetings can be managed differently.

Begin with meetings you are responsible for — the ones you initiate, schedule, invite, or prepare agenda for – and examine their purpose.

  • What criteria are you using to determine who is invited?

(Hint: purpose and expectation for their attendance)

  • What is the outcome for this meeting?

(Hint: Advance group, project, initiative; Develop strategy, tactics, accountability;
Training, Development; etc.)

  • What is the purpose for each agenda item?

(Hint: Decide, Discuss, Ideate, Inform, Problem-Solve, Teambuild, Inspire, Persuade, etc.)

  • What are the decisions for this meeting?

(Hint: if you only have inform by your agenda items, consider a different method of
communication)

  • Where do your participants access the agenda?

(Hint: Put the agenda in the calendar invite, along with any relevant documents or
information at least 2 days in advance. Then let your participants know it is there.)

Next consider the length of each meeting and agenda items:

  • Use the number of participants to determine number of agenda items. For 5 participants, assuming 2 minutes per item (which is very light commentary), you have room for 5 agenda items.
  • Shorten meeting time to give transition time (mental and physical) to next meetings for maximum contribution.
  • Start and end on time to foster respect for your meetings. Open with reflection or question to allow for transition time for attendees.

Now you’ve reimagined the meetings you own. And not every meeting is yours, so how do you influence meetings that are led by others?

Begin by checking your attendance. What does the meeting owner expect you to contribute during this meeting? If the answer is to gather information, consider another way for you to be informed about the meeting instead of sitting through it.

Be prepared for the meeting. If the meeting owner hasn’t put the agenda in the meeting invite, encourage them to do so. Ask what you can do to be the best participant in their meeting, and then follow through with their request.

When you are in a meeting, be present to it. Your contribution is both verbal and non-verbal. When you are attending to your technology instead of the meeting you give permission to others to do the same, and soon the meeting has lost value. If you find you cannot be present either leave the meeting or leave your device out of reach.

The future of collaboration is in the gathering of great minds to plan and innovate, and meetings are necessary. Exploring one of these elements above will shift your meetings, exploring all of them will change your culture. Will your organization lead the way? I hope so!

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