A long time ago a great business philosopher offered a solution to the endless stream of laborious meetings in which many corporate staffers found themselves. They said that no meeting shall be convened without an agenda distributed in advance, and all meetings should be conducted with everyone standing. Legend has it that one major corporation with average meeting lengths of over an hour and a half cut that average to 8 minutes using this method. Think of the productivity increase, albeit at a cost.
As that approach appears to be a great challenge to implement, here are a few down-to-earth suggestions that may make your meeting life in 2008 a bit more enjoyable:
- Brainstorm, with everyone. Nothing makes for a better meeting than participants knowing their ideas are welcome, and no idea is bad. Formalize the exercise with an exercise or use of toys to get everyone's right brain cells working better.
- Encourage laughter. Set an expectation of something enjoyable in which attendees want to participate, and let everyone know it's OK to laugh as long as meeting objectives are being met.
- Focus. If the proper tone is set, those present will be fine with postponing e-mail replies and other PDA activity since they will know the meeting is purposeful and their attention is desired.
- That agenda idea? It's still a good one. Half of good business is managing expectations, and an agenda tells those invited what to expect as well as why it is important.
It's like the old IBM adage, 'Think.' A little added planning, and respect for the time and creative thinking of participants, goes a long way to more enjoyable, more productive and, yes, likely shorter, meetings.