I like a good meeting at work.  Unfortunately so many meetings degenerate quickly and become messy and counterproductive.  

What is one bad meeting?  Not much.  But a pattern of bad meetings will cause attendees to make excuses to not show, or when they do, be less than attentive.  Fortunately you can do some simple things as an organizer and attendee to help boost the efficacy of your meetings.

Some tips for Organizers

  • Have an agenda and stick to it.  It is easy to justify going off the rails when you don’t have a plan. So have one.
  • Make your meetings short.  If a meeting takes 20 minutes, schedule it for 20 minutes and not 30.  Keep your eye on the clock and try to get everyone out of there in the proper amount of time.  If the meeting takes less time, end the meeting.  Don’t linger and have a gabfest or allow other meetings to spring up.  You want people to have their time back, so end the meeting when it is done, and leave.
  • Have a note taker if your meeting requires people to keep track of tasks.  That way people are focused on the meeting and not writing things down.  If necessary, when something is important, make sure the note taker has written it down.
  • Format the meeting to reach the meeting goal. A brainstorm meeting and a stand up meeting are two very different meetings, embrace the format of each.  If you need ideas on how to run a specific type of meeting, odds are thousands of people will have advice for you online.
  • Let people prepare.  Make sure that anyone who is going to participate in the meeting has the opportunity to prepare. Don’t put them on the spot if you don’t need to.  Let them present the most well thought out and prepared version of themselves.
  • Don’t over-invite. If you don’t think an attendee is needed, don’t bring them into the meeting.
  • Pick a good time.  You will know best, based on your co-workers, but I would suggest not early morning, late afternoon or during lunch.

Tips for Attendees

  • Leave your phone alone.  Either leave your phone on your desk, or out of sight.  I admit, I have a lot of difficulty with this one myself, but I am working on it.  The same can be said for laptop most of the time.  Unless it is integral to the meeting. 
  • Bring pen and paper.  I have found this to be very useful when it comes to not having my phone or laptop.
  • If you are presenting in a meeting, be prepared.
  • Don’t start side-conversations.  This meeting is important to someone, you should note what you need to talk about and discuss it later.
  • Show up on time.  That means being in your seat when the meeting starts.  This is not always possible, but in a perfect world, you are there 5 minutes early for any meeting and are settled in and ready when it starts.
  • Not a lunch meeting?  Don’t eat.  You being the only one eating is a distraction.  Save your food for after the meeting or eat before.

When was the last time you heard someone tell you, “good meeting.”  If it wasn’t your last meeting, think about what went wrong.  Review, revise and don’t let negative patterns repeat themselves.

Meetings are an important part of your work day.  Treat them with respect, value the time you spend in them, and people will be more willing to want to attend the meetings you lead and attend.