Ah, meetings. When it comes to productivity, some consider meetings more of an inconvenience rather than time well spent. Sure, there might be tasty snacks from the bakery that puts bacon on their donuts, but what really gets accomplished?
Fortunately, with a solid meeting agenda, you can achieve a lot more than carbohydrate consumption during meetings. People can be held accountable for their assigned contributions, time is managed better, and action items are more likely to be resolved.
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In contrast, team gatherings with a weak or nonexistent agenda tend to be less productive. Here we’ll discuss common problems businesses might experience with their meetings. Should any of these sound familiar, it’s likely your meeting agenda could do with an upgrade.
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3 Signs Your Meeting Agendas Need an Upgrade
While meetings can have a wide array of purposes, sharing and discussing information tends to be the main activity. If members of your team come into a meeting with no idea what the topic is, that’s a problem.
When attendees don’t receive a clear agenda before a meeting, you will burn precious time explaining the meeting’s purpose. And since that’s going to be your first order of business, you’ve already put yourself behind schedule. If everyone has a detailed agenda beforehand, you can jump right into action items.
An agenda is also a fantastic tool for holding participants accountable for preparation. How many times have you experienced individuals madly accessing data during a meeting as they’re speaking to the group? With advance warning of what they’re responsible for presenting, there is no excuse for being unprepared. Having this solidified in writing on an agenda makes those responsibilities known to the group as a whole.
Presenting information on the fly is not only inefficient, but it also carries the potential for inaccuracy. A minor consequence might be team members embarrassing themselves. More severely, major decisions during the meeting could be made based on inaccurate reports. Data or arguments compiled in advance are more likely to be reviewed for errors or faulty logic.
An organized agenda is vital for keeping discussions on track. Each action item should have a goal of either advancement or resolution. This goal should be determined before the meeting and accomplished before moving on to the next action item.
Without laying out action items in a specific order, meetings can devolve into participants wandering from topic to topic. The ensuing disorganization can have an unfortunate result — delaying the resolution of action items until the next meeting. This can also make your team feel like meetings are ineffective, which can be a surprisingly significant drain on office morale.
Agenda action items can pull people back when they wander off the current item of discussion. By having it in writing, you can reference the agenda and remind your team to stay on topic. They will be more likely to stay focused and discuss each matter toward the desired advancement or resolution.
With the working world seemingly faster paced than ever, it’s common to have a very little leeway on people’s calendars. If your meeting runs over its allotted time, it could be encroaching on a sales call or a business lunch. When this happens, team members either need to leave the meeting early or reschedule their other bookings.
For businesses that are constantly experiencing meetings going past the expected end time, absent agendas tend to be the reason. However, simply having a meeting agenda isn’t enough to ensure time adherence.
The most well-planned and detailed agenda is almost worthless if it isn’t enforced. When presenters experience no consequences for a lack of preparation, they aren’t likely to change that behaviour. The same concept applies to veering off topic or hijacking the conversation. Without enforcement, an agenda is a mild suggestion rather than a firm schedule.
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There can also be a problem when the meeting organizer is overly optimistic about how long action items will take. Sure, there will always be occasions when unexpected considerations arise during the discussion. However, these detours can disrupt the expected timeline and should be rare occurrences.
When team members note that the problem is becoming a regular occurrence, it’s time to reassess things. If you’re following the agenda without disruption and presenters are prepared, you should track how long action items typically take.
It might be tempting to only allot the amount of time you want each item to require. But unfortunately, assigning 15 minutes to a discussion that requires 30 minutes won’t magically expedite the process. All it will do is make the meeting run over, frustrating everyone along the way.
To resolve this problem, you need to either increase your meeting block or place fewer action items on the agenda. It’s far more practical and fair to your team to be realistic rather than wildly optimistic. Nobody is likely to complain if a meeting ends early. They’re far more likely to be upset when it runs long and disrupts the rest of their day.
Productivity and Efficiency
There are some who might argue that the vast majority of meetings could just be replaced with a group email. While email certainly has the benefits of documentation and convenience, there are also limitations. The truth of the matter is that sometimes discussion and direct collaboration are required, and these are improved by a group gathering.
So if you need to conduct regular meetings for your business, you should ensure they accomplish the intended goals. If you feel there are significant improvements to be made in this area, take a look at your meeting agenda. With upgrades and improvements, you can turn your time-squandering meetings into vehicles for strong results.