How many meetings did you attend or hold in 2006? Did you discuss
and collaborate on training curriculum in those meetings? Now take
a minute to consider how many of those meetings actually resulted
into positive, productive action that made your business and
training programs better.
These are important questions to ask in this world of fast-food
communication, where on-demand, real-time, dynamic collaboration
technologies have quickly turned global business into a single,
connected cube farm. Everyone has meetings; it's up to you to
determine whether the information and responsibilities shared in
those meetings drive your success or simply lead to deeper
inefficiencies. The Wharton Center for Applied Research found that:
if managers use meetings appropriately they can reduce the time
spent in meetings by 25 percent. Effective management of remaining
meetings can reduce time spent in meetings by an additional 20
percent. This indicates that using meetings effectively results in
a reduction of time spent in meetings from an average of 17 hours
per week to 10 hours per week.
Those are some pretty amazing numbers to think over. If you can
become better at using and managing your meetings, you can save
about five hours per week. That's 260 hours per year or an
astonishing 32.5, eight-hour working days each year. What could you
accomplish with over an extra month every year?
Take Back Your Time
It's great that Wharton can come up with statistics, but how do you
actually bring these projections to bear? There are actions that
you can take today that will begin saving you that coveted five or
seven hours per week. And following some basic guidelines will
ensure that your meetings instantly become more productive and
Pay attention to meeting preparation and
scheduling. Influencing optimized meeting productivity
throughout your entire meeting lifecycle starts with preparation.
Before you even open your scheduling application, ask yourself
whether a meeting is the most efficient way to accomplish your
goal. Is a meeting the proper medium, and if so, who are the right
people needed directly drive productive action?
Once you've established that a meeting is the right way to go, you
need to invite the right people, including
- a meeting organizer (that's you)
- subject matter experts
- all cross-functional project stakeholders
- the necessary decision makers.
Your next focus should be the utilization of proper meeting
invitation protocol. Experts have noted that this is where meeting
organizers waste 10 to 15 minutes, thus beginning meetings in an
unproductive manner. While applications like Microsoft Outlook make
scheduling easy, it's up to you to make your meeting invites work
for you, not against you. A concise agenda will let invitees know
what's expected of them and what will be covered. A meeting goal
will help keep you on track and drive the expected outcome of your
meetings. Finally, as we incorporate more technology into our
meeting habits, people need to know how to join a web or audio
conference before the meeting actually starts, so instructions are
Capture the right meeting information and action
items. Now that you've utilized the proper methods to get
the right participants into the right meeting with the right
information, you should concentrate on correctly capturing meeting
information. Most people I talk to use Microsoft Word, a text pad,
or the body of an email. While these applications are easy and
familiar, they don't provide any true meeting productivity
capabilities. Their use can actually lead to loss of productivity,
information, and meeting momentum.
Whatever you use, the most important factor is that you capture the
necessary information in a manner that ensures proper consumption
and utilization. Recording all of the right information in an
easy-to-consume format will make it much more likely that your hard
work in meetings will be used to create successful outcomes after
Distribute effective meeting information promptly.
After capturing the information shared in your meeting, you must
distribute it in an effective and timely manner. This seemingly
simple action will have a dramatic impact on whether the meeting
information is utilized or simply filed, forgotten, or even
deleted. Your main goal should be to ensure that the proper people
receive and can easily consume the right information. Timing is
everything, so distribute your meeting summary as quickly after the
meeting as possible, and do so in a format that is usable by all of
your participants. Choosing a ubiquitous, non-proprietary
technology format that is generally accepted, like ASCII text or
HTML, will further guarantee that your meeting notes will lead to
Archive, track, and manage critical meeting information
correctly. The final step to securing long-term meeting
success is to make your historic information easily accessible.
Distributed meeting summaries and action items should be archived
in a way that provides immediate anytime access. This information
should also be contextually linked, keeping together all
information from each meeting as a single record. This includes
notes, documents, action items, meeting details, and any other item
used in the meeting.
Assigned action items usually end up becoming project drivers, so
these nuggets must be managed with diligence. Tracking and managing
action items will make your team much more productive and will
ensure that your meeting outcomes lead to realized goals.
Pull it all together. Contrary to popular
experience, meetings don't have to be a nuisance or a place to
catch up on lost sleep. They can be the information and
communication drivers behind your organization's training,
learning, and performance programs. Empower yourself to much more
effectively capture, distribute, archive, and manage the critical
information and action items shared in meetings and your training
projects will turn out to be more successful than planned. You'll
optimize efficiency while saving you and your organization precious
time and money. and maybe you can even find something productive
(or even fun) to do with the extra time you'll save.
2007 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.