Monday, November 7, 2011

More effective meetings

Ever feel lost in a cycle of meetings? For most of us (both junior and more senior tenure-track faculty members) are running through a huge cycle of meetings. We may spend our days rushing from one committee to another, to a department or college meeting, then to a sub-committee meeting...not to mention classes and office hours! One of my biggest pet peeves (aside from when presenters read word-for-word from a PowerPoint presentation...I am, after all, a communication professor), is the pointless meeting.

You know them well. You see them often. In such meetings, people become flustered, get off topic, take out the frustration (of a pointless or directionless meeting) on one another, and feel the little time they have in the day slowly sucked away.

My years of studying communication (thank goodness for those awesome Organizational Communication classes!) creeps in and tells me that meetings don't have to be slow, laborious, or dreaded. In fact, we can have highly effective, highly productive meetings. It isn't too difficult-- why, then, are so many meetings seen as a waste of time or unnecessary by the attendees? Try a few of these easy ideas in your area to avoid eliciting a groan every time you call a meeting (some of these ideas also work well for class preparation!).
  • Meet ONLY when you need to meet. If an item can be addressed without meeting, then take care of the item without meeting. This helps everyone avoid meeting "fatigue" and can perk up faculty members' or committee members' attitudes.
  • Have a clear agenda (which is manageable in time and scope)...then stay on task. Plan carefully! If you have a hot topic item, don't plan 5 minutes with 50 people. Think how you would like to see that item addressed, budget the time, and plan accordingly. This shows respect for everyone involved, allows voices to be heard on various issues, and helps your meeting to stay on time (and avoid the groans as you try to cram in 5 agenda items as people are streaming toward the doors).
  • For committees (especially) - have something prepared, due, or required for the meeting (make sure this is a significant contribution and not just busy work). Let the individual work happen outside of the meeting so that the collaborative time together can be maximized. 
  • Don't forget to have "action" items. What exactly is the purpose/desired outcome of the meeting? Plan that in advance, assign action items, and leave feeling productive and accomplished. Going in with a plan and a vision will make a meeting MUCH more productive! Also, those in attendance can see the purpose of the meeting and are less likely to begrudge attending.  Assign action items, or note what you (the meeting leader) will do with material generated in the meeting, so everyone knows that the project/task is moving forward and how it is moving forward. This also helps everyone maintain deadlines.
  • Set the next meeting date in advance (respect the schedules of others) or, at a minimum, set it before leaving the current meeting so everyone knows what to expect, when to complete tasks, and can clear their calendars to be present.
  • Finish a meeting by exploring what worked well and what needs to be continually addressed. This type of reflection can easily help foster improved progress, new ideas, and increased productivity. Be open to feedback and ideas from everyone (if you are leading the meeting). 
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1 comment:

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