23/04/2014

By Chris Meredith, CEO at officebroker.com

Meetings may be an essential part of the business world; however there are those among us who have no idea how to behave in these situations.

We’ve all been in meetings where someone has made us see red either by texting on their phone, not contributing or even not shutting up.

Here are the seven worst examples of ‘meeting sins’ and advice on how to avoid them.

1. Time-wasting

Time is an extremely valuable commodity, so meetings that go on much longer than they need to are not only costing you money, but also disrespecting everyone’s time.

The main causes of this sin are a) having no agenda, and b) organising an unnecessary meeting.

The solution however is a very simple one. Set yourself a time limit for each meeting and say at the beginning ‘this meeting will finish at x’. Always have an agenda and put time limits by each item.

And finally, if you don’t need to have a meeting and you’re doing it just for the sake of talking, don’t organise one.

2. Texting/Checking emails

This sin is very simple. If you are looking at your phone you are not concentrating on the meeting in hand.

Often the most productive meetings are when you are away from your desk and completely disconnected from your day-to-day workload.

Simple rule, all telephones should be banned from meetings.

3. Motor mouths

Everyone can probably name someone in their office who likes the sound of their own voice. If you can’t then it’s most likely you.

However, when these people get into a meeting situation, they can not only alienate everyone else but also stifle the productivity of the meeting.

Sometimes whoever is chairing the meeting has to be blunt and cut in to shut this person up. A less confrontational manner however would be to give everyone fair warning at the start that if they go on, they will be shut up.

4. Doom and Gloom

Just like the Dementors in Harry Potter, there are those people who can suck the joy and happiness out of every situation.

They will try to find fault with anything that is suggested and often their negative energy will dry up even the most bountiful well of ideas.

A good way to go about this would be by creating a series of meeting rules which include banning phrases like ‘just being devil’s advocate’ and instead treating every idea as a good idea.

5. Poor chairing/over talking

A bad chair will result in a bad meeting, fact. They are the facilitator for discussion and the arbiter of ideas so if they cannot command the meeting effectively then it will be doomed to fail.

Chairing however, isn’t for everyone and that is absolutely fine. If you know you have to facilitate a meeting and you’re not 100% comfortable doing it find someone else who is.

There’s no shame in acknowledging a weakness and delegating the task to someone who is more capable.

6. Late arrivals

Just as overrunning meetings disrespect other people’s time, so do latecomers. You could just about get away with arguing that meetings that take too long do have an element of productivity. However, waiting for people to turn up is just dead time.

Many companies have now adopted a zero tolerance approach to lateness with some even fining people for being late to a meeting.

Whilst that maybe an extreme example it is important to set an example that lateness won’t be tolerated.

7. No actions

‘What is the point of this meeting?’ should be on the minds of everyone before you go in that door. A meeting that is just a talking shop and has set no clear defined actions has failed.

At the end of every meeting you should spend five minutes evaluating what was discussed. Outline what you wanted to achieve and list through the actions that have been delegated.

Therefore the minutes of the meeting need not necessarily reflect who said what but who is going to do what and by when.

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