Become a Brilliant Communicator (Part 5 of 5): Stop Wasting Time in Meetings

Last week, GovLoop and YGL hosted a half day training event for up and coming government leaders, who heard from experts on the topics of career management, leadership, communications, and more. One of the sessions, titled “Become a Brilliant Communicator,” provided tips on communicating via email and telephone, giving and receiving feedback, and holding successful meetings. Today’s post provides tips to help you make meetings worth your time.

Have you ever been been sitting at a table in a meeting and it feels like the tea party scene out of Alice and Wonderland? There’s no clear leader, the mission of the meeting is unclear, your questions aren’t being answered, distractions keep leading you down different paths, or you feel like you didn’t even really need to be there. I often hear complaints like these from friends about their office’s meetings. I did some research on meetings to avoid the scenarios I described, and here’s what I found:

  • Circulate an agenda beforehand – and actually stick to it
  • Take breaks
  • Only hold meetings when necessary – if it’s a weekly ritual don’t hesitate to cancel it if it’s not necessary
  • Avoid holding meetings during people’s most productive hours (the first 2 hours typically)
  • Confine questions to a designated question period
  • If it’s a quick meeting, try making everyone stand
  • Make PowerPoints visually interesting with minimal text
  • Have a clear leader or time keeper

Any other tips you could add? Do these sound relevant to you?

Become a Brilliant Communicator Blog Series:

Part 1: Become a Brilliant Communicator

Part 2: Excel at Email

Part 3: Transform Your Telephone Calls

Part 4: Improve How You Take and Receive Criticism

Part 5: Stop Wasting Time in Meetings

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Scott Kearby

I hate unproductive meetings, but when they are done correctly … lots of good stuff can happen & the entire team can keep up & make progress to achieving the mission. These tips are very good.

I would add that when unrelated (but often important) issues are raised … these should be noted & set aside for future action, so that the main objective of the meeting is not lost.

Start on time & finish on time …

It does seem counter intuitive to not hold meetings when people are most productive, especially if you are following the other rules.

R. Anne Hull

As a participant:

-Stay engaged to make value-added comments, not “me too.”

-Don’t talk just to have air time.

-Help keep others on track by summarizing or asking clarification related to the topic at hand.

-Do share your wisdom via applicable experience and suggestions, not just why it won’t work.

-Don’t keep quiet and watch it fail – that wastes everyone time.

-Remember that everyone sees things through their own lenses.

Jim Cook

Agree wholeheartedly with Scott and Anne. I have noticed that often in meetings some attendees feel the need to ask questions or make commentary that pertains only to them and/or not relevant to the current agenda. Seems like they are just enjoying being in the limelight–they need to be addressed after the meeting…

David B. Grinberg

Awesome series, Hannah!

In my nearly 20 years of working in federal government (no that’s not a misprint; I started straight from college) too many meetings are not only boring, but an abject waste of time and productivity. It’s essential for the meeting leader to keep discussions short and to the point — similar to the concise snap-fire manner in which Supreme Court justices interact with and question counsel during oral arguments.

Everyone already has too much work to complete in too little time. Don’t make it worse by holding meetings that have no practical purpose or that drag on and on to no end. That just frustrates all involved, hurts morale and lessens workplace productivity.

Another problem is how some folks easily go completely off topic, especially at the start of meetings. Sure I’d like to hear about your root canal, kid’s basketball game, or whatever, but formal meetings are neither the time nor the place. If a co-worker doesn’t have something meaningful to contribute, then they should just shut up.