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Get more out of shorter meetings


More than ever before we are spending a greater amount of time in meetings, particularly when you are planning and managing projects.

Sometimes long meetings are unavoidable, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Shorter can mean better.

One way to make meetings more effective is to plan ahead. Walking into a meeting without the full picture is almost certain to end in disaster. 

There are three simple steps to ensure you get even more from your meetings:

Split up your meetings

If you’re a project manager then a chunk of your time will be spent in meetings, so you’ll want to make sure they are an efficient use of time. Determine the objective of the meeting and split into separate categories with clear goals.

During the planning phase of a project, you will have some key meetings that will help ensure the success of the project down the line. These include meeting with stakeholders firstly to brainstorm project requirements, expectations and assumptions, and then to brainstorm risks and opportunities. (Find out more about these key meetings in the eBook Mission Controlled: The 5 Step Guide to Project Planning).

When the project is live, even more meetings will be required. The Project Management Institute suggest splitting into the following groups:
  • HHAY Meetings - these are short “hello, how are you?” meetings (seven minutes or less) to check in with fellow project team members and see how each person is doing.
  • Queue Meetings - these are meetings to discuss specific issues you have at hand, focused on key decisions that need to be made.
  • Innovation Meetings - this is time set aside to discuss ways to improve strategy, teamwork, communication or other areas, and/or develop new ideas or processes.
Put a timer on it

Ever wondered why TED Talks only last 18 minutes? According to Chris Anderson, TED Talks Curator, 18 minutes is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.

You may be thinking that this is a pretty short space of time for something that may have taken an hour previously, but there are ways to stick to it. When you send your meeting request, explain that there will be a timer, and ask attendees to be organised and gather the information needed for the meeting in advance. You could also explain the benefits of a shorter meeting, but then who doesn’t like shorter meetings. They practically sell themselves.

Short meetings also mean the team have energy left to go and start their actions. In a short space of time you can ignite an idea, make a decision or put something into action and gather momentum quickly. How’s that for productivity? 

Plan to make meetings more productive

Effective meetings are all about progressing to the next step quickly. But to enhance the productivity of your meeting, you need to prime participants and create the right environment.

You need to think about what needs to be done in advance. Do people needed to be briefed prior to the meeting? Do you need to direct them to gather and bring particular information? Do you need to supply information that they need to look at in advance?

Then there is the meeting set up. What facilities do you need, such as audio-visual equipment? This is a particularly important consideration if your meeting is off site, so you’ll need to check if the venue has what you need.

You’ll also need to think about how you will document the discussion. Good old pen and paper is fine, but would a laptop or tablet with an appropriate application work better, not least for giving you less work typing out your notes after the meeting.

And creating the right open environment for sharing information and ideas is also important. This is particularly vital during brainstorming. You should first set the ground rules at the start: that there is no such thing as a wrong answer.

The more information and ideas you have, then the less chance you have of missing something significant, which is all the more important at the planning phase of a project, to avoid costly mistakes down the line. 

Find out more about how meetings play a vital role in project planning in the eBook Mission Controlled: The 5 Step Guide to Project Planning.


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