We've all had them: marathon meetings that go on longer than Claudia Schiffer's legs. They're usually the result of bad preparation and a few people who love the sound of their own voice and talk in circles. Anyone who knows me knows I'll always do my best to avoid meetings at all costs - but, if you have to have one, here are four ways to keep them short, sweet, and effective.
1. Make Like A Chef And Prepare
Set an agenda with simple bullet points and a timeframe allocated to each. Then send it through to all attendees so they have enough time to get themselves organized too.
2. Keep The Guest List Short
Invite only those who need to be there, and keep an action list. I'm not a fan of minutes (unless it's a formal meeting where everything needs to be noted, of course) - you just need a good punchy list of things to get done afterwards.
3. The Offline Line
Saying "let's take that offline" can make the difference between a mini-meeting and a marathon. Assign these offline meetings as homework for your team to come back to the next meeting with solutions. There are some things that only one or two people need to know about, and you don't need to clog up your meetings by watching them debate it out.
4. Finish With The Follow-Up
Before you finish up, set a date for a follow-up meeting where you'll go through the action list and set new outcomes.
I've also been known to make meetings stand-up only. It keeps the energy flowing, and that way people don't settle in for long chats in comfy chairs. I've also had 'walk and talk' meetings where you literally do a lap or two of the block to get out what you need to discuss.
Above all, though, the most important thing to understand with meetings is that you should be using them to make decisions, not just talk about things.
May your decisions be swift and your meetings short!
Follow Emma Isaacs on Twitter: www.twitter.com/emmaisaacs
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