Mindful Meetings

Meetings are often seen either a good opportunity to catch up with colleagues, or a time-consuming interruption to the working day as opposed to productive pockets of time for all involved. They mostly seem to be viewed in a similar light to fire drills, a necessary evil, but undeniably a significant drain on company time and resources. The main problem is often that they lack any clear structure or objectives. Certain guidelines can help establish best practice when it comes to meetings, for organisers and attendees alike.

Don’t engage in “death by PowerPoint”. If a meeting is going to consist of a staff member reading a set of slides aloud, then simply circulate the slide set and/ or any other relevant material to all those who will be attending the meeting. If the meeting is still necessary, decide what the agenda is and work from there – not from a deck of slides that others are perfectly capable of reading in their own time.

Time is money, if a meeting is attended by eight people and lasts for one hour, this represents one working day in terms of company time. Similarly a meeting with 6 people that starts 10 minutes late represents an hour of company time lost. Keep this in mind when organising meetings and ensure that they start on time for maximum efficiency in terms of use of company time. The same goes for finishing on time, don’t let a meeting run over, stay within the timelines as much as possible.

Finish a meeting early if nothing is being accomplished, or indeed if the objectives have been accomplished. Don’t let it drag out to the allocated time simply because it has been scheduled for a certain period. Also, try to keep it within an hour, an hour and a half maximum to ensure that people remain focused and engaged.

Be the most present person at the meeting by paying attention to what is happening there and then. Put aside your phone – if a meeting is important enough to attend, it should be important enough to receive your undivided attention. Multi-tasking is a myth, if you are splitting your attention in two directions, you are not giving either your full attention and as such will miss elements of each. Show you are engaged by asking questions and engaging in the discussion.

Do sum up what has been discussed and agreed at the end of the meeting. It can also be helpful to create a memo outlining these points and circulate it to all attendees, ensuring clarity on what has been agreed upon and making people accountable for what they have agreed to do.

If you have to leave a meeting early, make sure the speaker/organiser is aware in advance and do so with as little disruption to others as possible.

Finally, consider whether a meeting is in fact required or, whether a group email to all the relevant people would suffice? Equally, a lot of time and effort can be saved by having a meeting as opposed to a lengthy email discussion on a subject. Consider what the objective of the meeting is and establish how this would be best achieved.