Meeting design plays a big part in meeting effectiveness, but the biggest factor tends to be participant behaviours – in fact 2/3 of meeting ineffectiveness is caused in the following ways:
- People not preparing properly for meetings
- Failure to do pre-reading (if any) leading to either the pre-reading being repeated at the start of the meeting (duplicating the effort of those who had done the pre-reading) or less-effective contributions from those who skipped it
- Failure to complete actions, often leading to time spent in excuses, a repeat of discussions leading up to the action, and repetition/delay for those not connected with the action; sometimes additional meetings to chase actions
- Lack of punctuality (and sometime non-attendance) leading to wasted time for those who were punctual and a risk that punctuality issues spread
- Distractions and lack of attentiveness, leading to delays while distractions are dealt with, or the consequences of arguments arising because people have not fully understood the background
- Time spent in defensiveness or resentment where heated discussions have resulted in unfair or even personal remarks or implications
- Poor preparation of presentations or contributions leading to inefficient and lengthy delivery of pieces of information, and also repetition of points already made
- Poor behaviour on behalf of one participant in respect of any of the above causing other participants to disengage in a way that leads them to commit other aspects of the above
Each of these things has implications, not only for the efficiency of the meeting itself, but also the implications of that meeting in terms of outcomes and culture. Good meetings lead to clarity and enthusiasm, whereas the above behaviours are regularly a source of confusion and demotivation.
Meeting Effectiveness requires that we each take personal responsibility for our own part in maximising the positive impact of meetings on both progress, and on the mental well-being of our colleagues. The points below summarise six steps we can all take to make meetings more effective – click on each heading to understand more.