Tuesday, 18 October 2016 20:39

How to Streamline Your Meetings and Save Valuable Time

For most businesses, meetings represent a never-ending paradox. Meetings often play a crucial role in both building teams and moving initiatives forward. At the same, they can consume a vast amount of time and have nothing to show for it. Every business owner—and every employee, for that matter—can point to horror stories of meetings with no purpose, that went on far too long, involved the wrong participants, etc.

Is it possible to conduct meetings that actually achieve what they set out to do and prove beneficial to everyone involved?

The answer is yes—as long as you keep these suggestions in mind to streamline meetings and make them more effective:hardwood lumber meeting

Always have an objective. Too many companies get in the unproductive habit of holding meetings just for the sake of getting a group of employees together in the same room. When planning your next meeting, nail down a specific goal. For us, specific objectives could be to discuss a new white oak log supplier, announce a change in a kiln drying practice, launch a new hardwood lumber product, get updates on ongoing sawmill project, etc. The point is to set a clear meeting objective and stick to it. The idea of having regularly scheduled “standing meetings” might not make sense these days with all the other communication methods we have at our disposal.

Create a detailed agenda. The meeting’s objective should be detailed in writing ahead of the event. This agenda, including a schedule of time allotted for each aspect of the agenda, should then be emailed to participants before the meeting. Ask those involved to compile a few bullet points regarding each item, so they come prepared to focus on the topic at hand.

Invite only those with a reason to attend. One of the most annoying pitfalls of business meetings is compulsory attendance of team members with no good reason for being in the room. There’s also the problem of meetings held with no key decision-maker present—an executive or project team leader—making it impossible to take further action.

The best approach is to be ruthless in selecting who should attend the proposed meeting. The attendee list should include people with an actual stake in the agenda and who can actively contribute to a successful outcome. Anyone else is just taking up valuable space and time.

Put a moderator in charge. Most meetings have someone who appears to be “in charge.” Unfortunately, these individuals often cede control of the meeting to whoever holds the highest title, speaks the loudest, or otherwise seeks to monopolize the proceedings.

A dedicated moderator with authority to efficiently run the meeting can eliminate these time-wasting obstacles. Do it yourself or appoint a person who can politely but firmly keep the discussion on track. Ensure the moderator also enforces a time-limit on each agenda item and reminds everyone that the meeting is coming to a close.

Just say “no” to mobile devices. How many meetings have you attended where the people around the table are fixated on their hand-held devices and offer nothing to the discussion (or are you sometimes guilty of this yourself)? There’s really no good reason for participants to have a smartphone or tablet with them at a meeting, except perhaps for the meeting leader who wants to share specific information. A clear-cut “ban” on mobile devices during meetings will promote greater attention from those involved, and maybe result in quicker or more productive sessions!

Sum up the meeting. A genuinely productive discussion includes a brief wrap-up of what’s been discussed and decided at the meeting. The moderator can summarize key action points, ensure that responsibility for future tasks are clearly assigned, and ask if there are any related questions. The best meetings are those when everyone leaves with a clear-cut understanding of what’s supposed to happen next.

Meetings still play a key role in getting the business of hardwood lumber done. I am sure the same is true for your industry. However, there are even more effective when you apply a little discipline and keep everyone focused on a productive outcome.

What other best practices for streamlining meeting do you find helpful? Let us know!

Tony Cimorelli
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