You’re not the only one dreading that meeting tomorrow morning. Atlassian reports that the average employee wastes 31 hours in unproductive meetings per month, with the salary cost of unnecessary meetings in the U.S. racking up an annual $37 billion. For marketers, PR professionals and other employees working in time-sensitive, fast-paced fields, wasting that much time is not an option if your goal is to do your best work.
The solution is probably to trash meetings altogether, right? Wrong. Sometimes, there’s no substitute for meeting face-to-face or over the phone. However, a broken structure like a traditional meeting agenda isn’t going to fix itself. As a PR person, marketer, and human with respect for other humans’ time, it’s up to you to stop running and participating in wasteful meetings. Here are five tips to get you started:
Be ready at least a day in advance.
Some people have a natural skill for winging any situation. Don’t assume this is you. Whether you’re staffing a press briefing or hosting a team brainstorm, create and review an agenda prior to your meeting and share your goals with attendees. When every person knows what you’re trying to collectively accomplish, you can increase the clarity of your conversation and get to the point.
Dive into the conversation.
There’s nothing wrong with making small talk to lighten the mood at the beginning of a meeting or conference call. It’s a powerful tool to help break the ice, get the group on the same page, and encourage team collaboration. Once your audience is feeling comfortable, tackle the most pressing item on your agenda first. Some things can only be resolved with a conversation, while some can be relegated to notes at a later time. Your clients and co-workers will appreciate when you know the difference.
Get it in writing – whatever “it” is.
There’s a reason your middle school teachers got on your back about taking notes. Designate a member of the group to record action items, soundbites and ideas discussed during your meeting. You’ll be grateful for those notes in two hours when you’ve been through two more meetings and your mind needs a break, and you may save yourself a follow-up call. Designate a note taker – yourself or someone else – so action items aren’t forgotten.
Keep an eye on the time.
I can’t count how many phone meetings I’ve been a part of that were saved by a simple phrase: “Pardon the interruption, but we have 10 minutes left.” If you’ve reached the end of a meeting but have yet to get to the point of the call or get together, this reminder is your springboard to speak your mind. Conversely, if you’ve reached the 10-minute mark and you’ve covered the purpose for your interview or check-in, you can give those minutes back to attendees. Remember that every meeting participant has other places to be. Respect their time, and they’re more likely to respect your work.
Get out of the office.
Many one-on-one meetings can take place during a walk down the street. Getting out of your daily work environment can open your mind to new thoughts and ideas, and the change of scenery can help the conversation stick in your mind. When a group is involved, consider options like taking a working lunch or hosting a video-chat session on a day when attendees are working from home. These options won’t always fit the nature of your discussion or the inspiration for your meeting, but no one will complain when you occasionally try to shake up a typical workday.