We all have a love-hate relationship with meetings. Most of our meetings are so bad that “Ugh Meetings” is one of the most popular meeting trends on Twitter. Whether it’s that guy that never stops talking or just an inundation of invites on your Outlook calendar, meetings take up a huge portion of the 40-hour work week — an inconvenient, but necessary, part of our daily work lives. But, have faith, ye meeting-logged workers! Here are seven ways to rescue a bad meeting.
1. End the meeting. Dare I say it? Can you really just stop a bad meeting in its track? Absolutely. We’ve all experienced the “Why are we here?” question in a bad meeting. Be empowered to simply end the meeting. If there’s no point, call it quits. The other attendees will thank you for it, and you’ll save valuable time in your already busy day.
2. Cut the chitchat. We all love a little chitchat, but when you’re still talking about weather 10 minutes into the meeting, things have officially gotten out of hand. Take the reins with a simple, “Well, shall we get started?” That should firmly kick the chitchat to the curb and get your meeting back on track.
3. Take a well-timed break. One of the biggest bad meeting crimes is caging attendees in a room for more than hour without a break. For every 30 minutes of scheduled meeting, arrange for a five-minute break so people can take care of business, like checking email, refilling their coffee or answering nature’s call. That five minutes will keep them positive, refreshed and on task.
4. Call attention back to the agenda. If you’re a meeting pro, you know that the agenda is the meeting king. But human nature endangers getting through the entire agenda in the allotted period of time. When the attendees get fixated on one item for longer than planned, simply call attention back to the agenda with a quick, “In the interest of time, let’s circle back around to this item after we’ve completed the other tasks.” If you don’t get to back to that item, simply schedule a follow-up with ONLY the meeting attendees affiliated with that specific task.
5. Use an egg timer. Brainstorming and collaboration meetings are incredibly effective tools for innovation. But they can also turn into a productivity sink hole when attendees ramble on without time constraints. Turn your bad meeting frown upside down by using an egg timer (or the timer on your smartphone) to get through a brainstorming session. Your productivity will go through the roof, and you’ll also leave the meeting with tangible ideas vs. a long stream of thoughts.
6. Turn off the Powerpoint. Ah, Death by Powerpoint. How we deplore you! When caught between a rock and a Powerpoint eye chart, just shut the thing off. Instead, request that the presenter “walk you through” the general concept and provide the slides for review after the meeting.
7. Enact a No Technology Rule. Beware: your attendees are going to hate this one, but it’s for their own good. Distraction and multitasking are certain meeting doom, effectively rendering your action items to annoying buzz in attendees’ ears. Ask attendees to put their smartphones in their bags and laptop screens down to a 45-degree angle. If you give them the 5-minute breaks, they can text their buddies later.
These tips are your meeting friends — the Lucky 7 that will rescue your next bad meeting from certain disaster. Save yourself, people! Your Outlook calendar will thank you for it.
For more meeting tips and tricks, join the Meeting Tips conversation here on the blog or visit the PGi Blog for more how-to meeting goodness.