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Business // Thinking Smart
David S. Chang

How To Avoid Unproductive Meetings

Do you hate unproductive meetings? The purpose of a meet ing is to discuss something face to face to get things done. Unfortunately, a third of the 11 million meetings in the U.S. taking place every day are unproductive, costing $37 billion a year! The average U.S. worker spends 31 hours in 62 unproductive meetings a month and considers half of them to be time wasted. Not only that, at least 30 million PowerPoint presentations are created daily for meetings! Here are some interesting statistics for the average meeting goer:

* 91 percent daydreamed
* 96 percent missed
* 39 percent slept
* 45 percent overwhelmed
* 73 percent did other work
* 47 percent believe meetings to be the No. 1 time-waster

Here are some tips to overcome unproductive meetings.

* Clarify the Why and Purpose. Be clear on why the meeting is taking place, what is expected of people, and what the meeting will be about. If not, a meeting can turn into an aimless social gathering with people wondering why they are there instead of a productive meeting.

* Clarify the What and End-state. What is the goal for the meeting? Is it to solve a problem? Is it to make a decision or come up with an idea? Without a clear objective, it is easy to be distracted and waste time without accomplishing anything.

* Clarify the Who and Attendees. Each person attending should have a role and be there for a reason. If meetings are too large, then only a few people may dominate without any input from others. In addition, there should be a designated decision-maker who is responsible for keeping the meeting productive and on track. One study showed that people have a tough time distinguishing between the topic experts and the loudest person in the room. To keep the meeting productive, clarify who is accountable to what topic instead of listening to someone loud that likes to talk and may not be right.

* Clarify the How and Agenda. Each meeting should have an agenda so people know what to focus on and in what order. You want people to be prepared for meetings and have the slides, agenda, or meeting documents prior to the meeting to review. If people are prepared and on the same page, then the meeting will run quicker. Enforce meeting etiquette for everyone, such as not eating, checking your phone, and the top etiquette rule which is the next point.

* Clarify the When and Start/End Time. Thirty-seven percent of meetings start late because people arrive late. This leads to people being disrespected, embarrassed and frustrated, driving down performance. It is important to start on time and end on time. More importantly, keep the meeting as short as possible. Since a third of meetings are unproductive, have fewer and cut them out. Don’t aim for time, aim for the objective. If every item on the agenda is done in 10 minutes for an hour-long meeting, end it there.

* Clarify the Which and Action Steps. The meeting should end with which courses of action to take. Action steps help people understand what is next, who is responsible for what, and when it will be done. Send a roll-up of the meeting to all attendees recapping what was talked about and the action steps. This way there is no confusion that forces another meeting to be set to clear up the confusion! For more tips on how to run meetings, visit artofthinkingsmart.com.

david@changholding.com

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