It’s incredible to see agencies that have very strict purchasing/expense policies that prohibit employees from spending more than a few dollars without approval but allow them to call pointless meetings that cost the business thousands of dollars in opportunity costs! Agency meetings need to be effective!
I’m sure we’ve all been in those meetings where one person is droning on at the front of the room while the remainder of the participants either: look totally bored (if not on the verge of dozing off), not paying attention and, in some cases, responding to email. What a waste of everyone’s time involved.
The other big problem with all those meetings is that it means that it means that you don’t have time to do ‘real’ work. I recently heard that on average people spend a third of their workday in meetings. That feels low to me based on my experience.
I appreciate that some meetings are chargeable client meetings but keep in mind that, if you really want your client to see you as a partner, you should make sure that the client is getting value from all its interactions with your agency.
There is a way to have effective meetings in your agency
That is by creating meeting guidelines and policies and educating staff about the importance of reducing the number of meetings, improving the quality of those left to have effective meetings. If you want a justification, then look no further than our short article about the value of every percent of the chargeable time that you can get out of your team. But just as important, I guarantee that they will be happier for not having to attend pointless meetings.
What should be in the guidelines for effective meetings?
I’m glad that you asked 😊. Here are some things that should be in your agency’s meeting guidelines:
- All Meetings should be planned. It’s incredible that as many as 63% of meetings are not pre-planned. Imagine trying to execute a client project without planning. It would almost certainly be a disaster and unplanned meetings are the same. The only difference is that the ‘failure’ of the meeting is not immediately evident unless the employees have to stay late to catch up.
- The objective. Every meeting should have a clearly defined objective. This objective should be clearly stated in the meeting invitation and repeated at the beginning of the meeting. I suggest that you go further and create meeting templates to be used in G-Suite or Outlook which include the objective and plan. Then make sure that everyone is correctly using these templates in your agency. Once this is in place a 2nd phase will be to check if the agenda has been met at the end of the meeting.
- Meetings, not lectures. Way too many meetings are presentations of information. People read a lot faster than speak so it makes little sense to have someone read through a bunch of slides as they are being presented to an audience. The majority of these meetings need to either be eliminated or drastically reduced. Rather than, have the meeting, it would make a lot more sense to send the presentation to the audience for comment. If a meeting is necessary, for example, because your team wants to discuss the slides, then the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the contents of the slides. It’s not to view the presentation.
- Short Agendas & follow-up. Try and keep the agenda short and focused. Ideally, it will be less than 3 items long. Make sure that everyone keeps to it. I appreciate that participants will want to discuss items that are not on the agenda or tangential items, but the organizer should reign them in and suggest that those items are dealt with in separate meetings. When the meeting is concluded then make it the organizer’s responsibility to write up the notes. This discourages people from organizing needless meetings.
- Attendees. It may be tempting to invite all possible stakeholders to meetings (just in case they can contribute, or worse, they appear to be available) but only invite the key people who must attend. Everyone else can see the agenda, presentation, and notes. Unless it’s a workshop, an all-hands meeting or the objective is teambuilding then there should be less than 5 people attendees.
- Keep it short. If you implement all the above items, then this will be relatively easy to implement. The majority of meetings should be 30 minutes or less. Keep the invite to 30 minutes and stick to it. If the meeting runs over then stop after 30 minutes and organize a follow-up meeting. Do not fall into the temptation of continuing the meeting unless there is no other option. This gives you time to assess why the meeting lasted longer than anticipated, regroup, and reassess the objective. Also, avoid booking one-hour meetings unless you are confident that you need the full hour.
Make it stick
All the above is interesting, but it means nothing unless it’s consistently applied in the agency. It is a change so will need leadership to champion it and communicate why it’s necessary. Leaders should encourage staff to challenge the requirement of a meeting, to ask for the objectives and the presentation in advance. Implement the templates that I suggested above. Ask people for the meeting notes and set an expectation as to how much time they have to send them. These tips will help you make agency meetings more effective.
Maybe there will be some initial resistance but your team will be a lot happier and more productive.
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