Time management is a farce. We have never managed to either stop time nor slow it down. So, we cannot manage time, instead, we can manage our activities around time to be as productive and fruitful as we can.
The hot topic in most IT organizations after performing post-mortem on meetings is that the time management on meetings was missing. Like I said, they are referring to the wrong factor but talking about how the time on these meetings was utilized.
So, how can we be most productive during meetings? Here are some tips.
1. Identify a chairperson for the meeting
There must one individual who must lead meetings – not multiple ones. The chairperson of a meeting must a knowledgeable person in the field in which he is running the meeting. And, he must be a respectable figure among other meeting attendees. If there is no accountability, then it is impossible to tighten things around the bends so that the activities performed are fruitful.
2. Every meeting must have an agenda
Agendas are a must for every meeting – even if it is an ad-hoc meeting between two people. Coming up with an agenda is the responsibility of the chairperson of the meeting and the agenda must come out before the meeting begins. Preferably well ahead of the meeting, so that the participants can prepare for the role they are going to play during the meeting.
Suggested Reading : Snippet on Meeting Agenda and Meeting Agenda Template
3. Outline the meeting
The chairperson must further outline the various things he is going to cover during the meeting. If he has five things on his plate, then he must accordingly allocate tentative timelines for each section. This is a preparation that will serve him well during the course of the meeting.
4. Preparation from Meeting Attendees
Meeting attendees must come prepared for meetings for it to be worth their time, and worth the effort they put into it. When the agenda is published, respective action owners/topic owners must research, find out all there is to their part in the meeting so that the meeting becomes a forum where they share information rather than gaining available knowledge during meetings. In other words, meetings should be a forum where new information is exchanged and not one where attendees get enlightened. That enlightenment can take place during trainings.
5. Start the meeting on time
It is a custom in some countries to come fashionably late into meetings. This needs to be avoided. Latecomers reflect the disrespect they carry for other participants’ time. If I am chairing a call, I start it on time, whether some key players are in or not. If the attendees come in late and asked to be briefed, I curtly say in front of everybody that they should have come in on time like everybody else. The embarrassment they face will be an eye opener for them to step in a minute early next time.
6. Track time
The chairperson has already come up with an outline on every item on the agenda. But it is highly unlikely that he can stick to the tentative timelines. But what he could do is sway people from not nitpicking on topics that lay around and outside the periphery of the topics to be discussed. He can bring them back into the fold by asking them to take particular discussions offline. The chairperson can further schedule separate meetings for certain topics that require brainstorming and analysis during meetings.
7. Remind Attendees on the Meeting Time
A good practice to follow is to keep announcing the time that has elapsed or the time that is left for the meeting to end. It is common for people to lose sight of time and it is the sole responsibility of the meeting chairperson to remind everyone where they stand with reference to agenda and time on hand.
8. Don’t Assume that Meeting gets Extended Automatically
If a meeting does not look like it is going to end within the set boundaries, the chairperson must ask everyone if it is OK to extend the meeting. If people have prior engagements, then he needs to find an alternate slot. It is observed especially in India that meetings do not have an end time. It goes on as long as it must. Although I commend the dedication in achieving the objectives of the meeting, in hindsight, it is not a fair practice. It simply reflects that amount of value it carries for the schedules of meeting attendees.