8 Ways to Cure Dysfunctional Business Meetings

By Small Business AllBusiness.com

The idea of stand-up business meetings isn’t new; a colleague was advocating them over 15 years ago. Yet I’ve seen some recent articles about using stand-up meetings as an easy solution to make your meetings more productive.

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We’ve all attended or even organized meetings that simply dragged on and didn’t accomplish what we wanted, so the promise of stand-up meetings is very compelling. Unfortunately, this doesn’t treat the symptoms of dysfunctional meetings that waste everybody’s time.

Are stand-up meetings useful? Sometimes, but not as a solution to bad meetings. They can easily be used for short 5 to 10 minute status updates, particularly when you don’t want to use a meeting room or when you have too many participants to be seated in your meeting space. The stand-up meeting can even be held in an open plan office if it includes the entire team.

One of the principles of the stand-up meeting is that participants will pay attention since they can’t slouch in their chair and the meetings will be short because it’s less comfortable to stand. It even makes it harder for attendees to hide their phones under the table and read emails or send texts during the meeting.

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For meetings where more complex issues need to be discussed, lots of input gathered and solution explored, simply forcing meeting attendees to stand up won’t make the meeting more productive. These types of meetings are frequently from 30 minutes to several hours long.

Instead, use these techniques to get better results from your meetings:

  1. Distribute a meeting agenda. The agenda should be provided to all participants far enough in advance for them to review. While this seems obvious, the agenda is often provided shortly before meetings or even at the meeting.
  2. Outline the meeting. Clearly identify the reason for the meeting, the approach that will be taken, and the anticipated outcome. Do this in the meeting invitation or the agenda.
  3. Prepare attendees. Make sure each participant has a specific reason to be there and make sure they know it. Outline it in your agenda if necessary, or send out a separate email about what is expected from participants, such as specific information, background, documents, participation and even decisions.
  4. Schedule times for topics or speakers. Set time for specific topics or discussions and invite subject matter experts for those timeframes only, so they don’t have to sit in on the entire meeting.
  5. Aggressively manage the discussion. Hold to your timelines within reason, keeping the overall meeting objectives and length in mind. After all, you want an outcome everyone can agree on, not a truncated discussion. However, don’t let the discussion go on longer than necessary — stop discussion and summarize, then ask for agreement before proceeding.
  6. Park side issues for another time or another meeting. Whenever discussion gets off-topic, stop it and tell the participants that you are parking the issue. Use a whiteboard or pad board to write it down.
  7. Clearly record decisions or action items. Do this on a white board in the room so everyone participating (in person) can see, then transfer those decisions and action items to the meeting minutes.
  8. Keep the minutes short and concise. Summarize good results and decisions at the top so those who read the minutes will see them quickly and won’t have to read through various items to get a sense of the meeting outcome.

Michel Theriault is an author, speaker and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention and get ahead. He is the author ofWrite To Influence (from the Quick Guides for Managers series), Win More Business – Write Better Proposals and Managing Facilities & Real Estate.  Connect with Michel or read his blogs about management and leadership on his site atwww.successfuelformanagers.com.

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