Depending on your position within the company where you work, you could be spending anywhere from 35-50% of your time in meetings. Often those meetings are non-productive and ultimately a waste of your time—and the time of everyone else who attends.
It may feel that in a work environment with a cycle of non-stop meetings, there is nothing that can be done to make meetings a more productive use of everyone’s time. But, there is hope! Thoughtful planning is the key to have productive, efficient and effective meetings.
Try working with the “8 Ps”, a tried and true approach for planning better meetings.
Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this meeting? Exactly what do I hope to accomplish? Is this meeting even necessary? Is there a better way to accomplish my goals?”
You should be able to state the purpose in no more than one or two sentences.
What is the intended outcome of this meeting? It could be a successful review, update or introduction of a process or program, establishing a plan for action, or the resolution of disputes, among many other possibilities. The clearer you are about the goals of the meeting, the more likely you will achieve those results.
At a minimum use the following rules:
Here’s how to use ELMO: I begin by placing a laminated 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper with the word “ELMO” on the table. (I have also seen people use an Elmo doll.) As the leader of the meeting, empower everyone to use ELMO. Tell them that when a speaker goes off topic or into much more detail than is useful, participants can raise the ELMO up sign or simply say “ELMO”. The facilitator stops the speaker for a minute and asks the group “Are we ready to move on?” If the majority says “Yes”, then the speaker stops and the meeting moves on. If the group says “No”, then the speaker continues. It can be tricky when using ELMO with superiors. Sometimes when I’m facilitating a meeting with people in a range of positions within the company hierarchy, I’ll try to get a sense of what the group is thinking and say, “I think we have an ELMO here.”, and then see if the majority of attendees is willing to move on.
If you follow the 8 Ps, you’ll have a solid foundation for a meeting that will be effective, efficient, and a productive use of your team’s time.