Meetings that consume vast amounts of time annoy communicators, and rightly so.
PR and marketing meetings can produce plenty of talk but few valuable conclusions or action items. Some participants rehash old material while others drift into a dream state.
Like other professionals, many marketers and PR pros suffer through unproductive meetings, not knowing how to streamline them. These suggestions can help:
1. Set an agenda. Specify topics of discussion and how much time will be dedicated to each topic. Those details help prevent the meeting from getting derailed into unproductive, irrelevant conversations, as Corey Wainwright writes for HubSpot.
2. Limit participants. Meeting times increase drastically depending on the number of participants, so choose the right people in the right numbers to suit the decision to be made, writes Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, in his book “Principles: Life and Work.”
3. Establish who’s in charge: Make clear who is directing the meeting. Meetings without a clear leader run a high risk of being directionless and unproductive.
4. Identify meeting goals: The leader should explicitly state what the meeting should achieve and how to reach that objective, Dalio says. Open discussion should be geared toward making decisions.
5. Stay open-minded.The meeting leader must explore all participants’ views, balance conflicting perspectives, and push through impasses to use time wisely and meet the stated objectives. The leader should work through conflicting opinions with an open-minded approach so participants can better understand the various perspectives offered.
6. Minimize emotion; emphasize reality.People’s emotions tend to heat up amid discord. Dalio emphasizes that the leader must remain calm and analytical, grounding the discussion in reality so emotion doesn’t cloud or prevent rational decision-making.
7. Control talkative team members. Often, one or two people dominate the conversation, leaving little time for others. If that happens, politely reveal your concern after the meeting, corporate trainer Paul Axtell advises in an article for Harvard Business Review. Axtell suggests something like: “Troy, I would like the participation to be a bit more balanced in our meetings. It would be helpful if you waited until other people have entered the conversation before you add your thoughts. Also, I’d appreciate it if you’d look out to see who hasn’t participated yet and invite them share their thoughts.” Having that conversation with a verbose colleague before the meeting may be even more effective. If someone gets interrupted, return to them and ask them to finish their thoughts, Axtell advises. For instance: “Sarah, was there something else you wanted to add?”
8. Limit devices. Before the meeting, send a message to ask participants to resist checking their mobile devices during the meeting, Axtell says. Consider writing “no devices” on the whiteboard so you can point to it if attendees start to check their phones. Top executives can set an example by resisting their phones or tablets.
9. Follow the “two-minute rule”to avoid persistent interruptions. Give speakers an uninterrupted two minutes before others respond. This ensures that they have time to communicate their thoughts without worrying they’ll be misunderstood or drowned out by a louder voice, Dalio advises.
10. Beware “topic slip,”or randomly drifting from topic to topic without completing any of them. To avoid topic slip, track the conversation on a whiteboard so that everyone can see the subject currently under discussion, Dalio advises.
11. Reach closure on each agenda topic to establish the next action steps. State the group’s conclusion at the end of a discussion. Send out a summary of the meeting within an hour or at least before end of day, Dalio advises. “If there is agreement, say it; if not, say that,” he states. Track how many items are completed, aiming for an 85 percent completion rate.
A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.