We deliver many courses where issues relating to meetings take centre stage.  On average, I believe that 80% of individuals, particular managers, say they have problems with meetings, they think they would save a massive amount of time if they weren’t invited.  Moreover, many say that attending the meeting is a waste of time because nothing happens anyway.  What happens is that we participate in meetings for meeting's sake.  In our Time Management course, we talk about this as being a massive time bandit; in other words, it is stealing your time.

Of course, when meetings are conducted correctly, they can be a significant benefit to the organisation. However, some simple rules need to be adhered to, so they are useful: 

Only invite those who need to be there – What is the point of asking someone to be at a meeting and for them to spend the whole time looking at the window, utterly pointless.

Have an agenda – If you don’t have a plan, there is a good chance that the meeting will be high-jacked by other things!  An agenda should be sent out to everyone, so individuals know what is going to be discussed.  Give individuals a deadline to add to the schedule. The agenda should also contain the time and location of the meeting, along with the items going to be discussed. Don’t complicate this; it needs to be simple bullet points.  The first point should be to review the previous meeting and points of action.

Have a chair – in other words, someone in charge, or a facilitator so they can ensure agenda items are the only things being discussed and aid decision making.

Produce points of action – these are the key decisions made and importantly who is responsible and what they need to do.  Always give timescales and date of completion to focus on getting things done.

Organisations need a meetings protocol – These are the rules that will state the above in clear policy.  This ensures everyone follows the same guidelines.

There is no doubt meetings are a total waste of time without an agenda, points of action and inviting the correct people.  Follow these simple guidelines, and I guarantee your meetings will be better received from everyone.

Ralph Moody is the founder of Target Training and specialises in trainer and management development.  You can read more about him here.