In my professional career nothing has been the source of more frustration than the daily ritual that is the meeting. I simply cannot understand that a ceremony that is so critical in the decision-making process for businesses can be run in such a sloppy and unstructured manner.
I cannot proclaim to be an expert in this area, I certainly am not, but I can tell you from experience the habits you should avoid in your next meeting:
If someone has been invited to a meeting that has no ability to contribute constructively, or authority to make decisions then it is likely that this person should not be in the meeting.
Your memory sucks. If no one is being held responsible to keep notes in a meeting then expect to waste your collective effort and time. This person should also distribute those minutes afterward with a clear list of outcomes from the meeting.
If someone has set up a meeting and not provided a breakdown of the agenda for the meeting then decline the invite and tell them you don’t enjoy wasting your time. An agenda provides a structure to a meeting that is critical for time management and focus. No agenda thus means a pretty terrible meeting.
No Clear Outcomes
The primary objective of a meeting is an outcome. If the objective is to share information then that will be achieved by merely having a discussion. If the outcome is to perform a task then everyone present must leave with a clearly defined assignment necessary to perform that higher-level objective.
No Critical Decision Makers Present
Are you having a meeting about a project without the project manager? Stop wasting your time. If you are having a meeting without the people responsible for the decision making on the task then you will achieve nothing. Always have a decision maker present in a meeting.
No one to keep meeting on track to achieve outcomes
Meetings need to be kept tightly focused on the agenda, people have a habit to talk off-topic and politeness from other attendees either allow or engage the off-topic discussion. Here it is useful to have someone to identify when the discussion is running off-topic and bring the discussion back to the agenda.
No one is being time-conscious
Everyone in the room should be punctual, aware of the allotted time and the amount of work that needs to be done in a meeting. A culture of allowing meetings to run overtime will render all your meetings useless as the required subject matter will never be focussed on properly. Think of it as an exam paper.
Subject matter too broad
You have to narrow down the subject matter of a meeting to something that can be tackled within the allocated time period of the meeting. If you have subject matter that is too broad you will invite discussion into areas that may not require the attention of the group in the meeting at the time.
Appropriation of gimmicks into meetings
A number of businesses run by managers who have recently read some New York Times best-seller will try to introduce fancy gimmicks they have learned about into a meeting. An example of this is using “Stand-Ups” as used by Developers in Scrum meetings to a meeting about Human Resources or Sales. Avoid the gimmicks, get on with the work at hand.
Not everyone is having an equal and fair opportunity to speak
It is important that the same person that is keeping the meeting focussed and on track also allow everyone to speak in the meeting. The reason for this is that some folks will say nothing and some folks will talk throughout the meeting. Equal and fair talk time is the only way to extract value from everyone in the room.
Some people will make the same point several times in a meeting. Tell that person to stop. It’s not productive to hammer a point into oblivion. We get it. You said it thrice.
People are being distracted by laptops or phones
Stop taking laptops or phones out during a meeting unless required. Why are you frantically typing away on your Macbook in a Sales meeting if you aren’t keeping minutes? You are not focussing and you are being rude.
Passive Aggressive or aggressive language in making a point
Nothing irks me more than aggressive or just unprofessional language in a meeting. Common courtesy and decent communication with co-workers, even if you don’t agree with them, is mandatory for constructive conversation. You cannot expect people to give you their best value and insights when you are walking all over them. Stop it.
Hope this was a helpful list. It was therapeutic to share it with you. Thanks for reading.