How do you fix your meetings?

fix your meetings

Do you even need to fix your meetings? The truth is the majority of meetings ain’t great so chances are you do.

 

Most people don’t think they need to fix their meetings. But, ask almost anyone in almost any company about meetings and you are likely to find far more negative feeling than positive. That may seem like fag packet analysis but the truth is the research doesn’t lie. Have a gander at our post The Hidden Cost of Crappy Meetings for more.

 

But how do you fix your meetings?

 

In my experience of working with some of the largest companies in the world, people end up doing some really bizarre things to fix their poor meeting culture.

“No more meetings” rule – as the title implies, no one books anymore meetings ever. This , of course, is total nonsense because the conversations people still must have are simply taken into a different medium like Slack where you might be having meetings whilst you ‘work’ at your desk.

“No Meetings” days – having given up on fixing meetings, this is usually an attempt to protect some time in the week for employees to focus on being productive.

“No meetings longer than ..” rule – with the intent that even if meetings are wasteful and uncomfortable, at least we aren’t spending too much time on them.

“Standup only meetings” rule – in the hope that participants will not take too long before their feet hurt.

Whilst I welcome any thing that might help people be more productive, make meetings more effective –  for heaven’s sake I wish they based their ‘corrective’ efforts on actual data.

 

So, how do you get data to fix your meetings?

 

To have data to analyse you’ve got to start collecting data. There are a number of areas we’ve highlighted that contribute to a successful meeting outcome, namely:

  • Attendance and punctuality
  • Agendas and contributions
  • Follow-up and task tracking

Each one allows you to focus on the key aspects of a good meeting. Having the right people invited in the first place, having a clear agenda, with time allotted to each element. Ensuring attendees are contributing, if they’re not they likely don’t need to be there, and the all important follow up. Each area represents a facet of the meeting that can be recorded and scrutinised once enough data has been collected. Outcomes can then be tracked back and correlated with the other areas of meeting performance to identify the kind of meetings that are succesfull. This can be used to shape future meetings and ensure that everyone attending follows a process you know will succeed. 

It also help to categorise your meetings so you can take a different approach, broadly most meetings fall into the following categories:

  • Status Update Meetings.
  • Information Sharing Meetings.
  • Decision Making Meetings.
  • Problem Solving Meetings.
  • Innovation Meetings.
  • Team Building Meetings

Each of these requires a different approach, some might be better served via different channels. Maybe you can use a Slack channel for status updates? Ultimately though each organisation works differently, by focussing in on successful outcomes you be able to shape your meeting culture just the way you want it and fix your meetings.

 

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running effective meetings

Try it Free.

Distributed workforces; The new normal

new normal

Talking about the “new normal” seems odd right now as nothing is normal. What’s certain is that things are changing in the way we work.

So firstly what is the new normal. Well as a phrase it was coined post the financial crash of 2008. It basically implies that something abnormal has become normal. It’s kind of apt that it’s become the word on everyone’s lips right now just as it was in 2008/2009. Yes I’m old enough to remember that vividly.

Where distributed workforces are involved it perfectly describes right now as most companies hove a workforce spread across home offices, kitchen tables and bedrooms the world over. And guess what, for a lot of businesses it’s not really caused much damage or upheaval. In fact the bean counters are probably sat at home working out how much they can save on office rents!

For years the idea of distributed workforces has been something of a novelty. Pursued by the 5 hour work week converts and zanny start-ups looking to be different. But quietly behind the scenes some companies have been making it work, and work well. Take Automattic for example, they’re the commercial company behind wordpress and they’re worth $1 Billion plus at last valuation. They have 1,000 plus people working in 75 countries and are 100% distributed. They would have been considered an outlier 3 months ago, but now we’re talking new normal are they the blueprint for the future of work?

What’s interesting is how many companies that are finding the enforced change actually quite straightforward. This enforced lockdown, in the UK at least, has proved to be a great stress test of the vital infrastructure, internet and telecomms and it’s all worked. Virgin media notwithstanding. It’s no coincidence that the Microsoft teams ad has been playing on virtually every TV channel around the world at most times of the day. Why? Because some smart person has realised that things are going to change permanently and working remotely will be one.

It’s perhaps too early to say what will happen in three months, 6 months or longer but what is certain is that we’ve discovered, albeit through a rather terrible cause, that we can work this way. Technology has been our saviour, once again. Working remotely also has other benefits, no more 2 hours of commuting, more time with family and yeah sitting in front of a computer in your pants!

So where does Amazemeet come into this? Well it’s the perfect time for an AI base software that helps you have better meetings. One thing is for certain that distributed workforces need the tools to work efficiently and that’s where Amazemeet excels. It’s there every step of the way to help plan, execute and manage follow on for your meetings and it will do most of it for you. Nobody likes people not showing up, Amazemeet ensures attendees are at the meeting prepared and ready. Amazemeet manages the timings to ensure things don’t spiral and it makes sure everyone knows what their post meeting actions are. In short it’s your meeting facilitator, personal assistant and secretary all rolled into one.

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running effective meetings in the new normal

Try it Free.

Looking beyond lockdown.

looking beyond lockdown

As we look beyond lockdown what kind of world will we emerge into? Will we see lasting change?

Asking somewhat what the future holds right now is a bit like asking for the winning lottery numbers. It’s still far from certain where we will be in one or two months. What is certain however, is that large chunks of the economy are going to take a hit. Some, retail in particular, was on shaky ground before Covid-19 came along and it would be fair to say the outbreak is the straw that’s broken the camel’s back. We do have some motivation however to embrace positive change especially where meetings are concerned. If you don’t believe us read our post the hidden cost of crappy meetings.

What will the lasting impact be?

It’s hard to see how some aspects of the economy will recover. The high street may well never return as we know it. That will be a great shame but it’s also very clear that a traditional model of retail has had it’s day. As people move more towards seeking experiences this could be an opportunity for our shopping streets to transform into places we actually want to visit, rather than rows of the same shops selling the kind of things we get from Amazon.

For meeting culture and those sectors Amazemeet works with the shift is likely to be more cultural. Enforced remote working was at first a pain. But now more and more people are beginning to embrace the change. Organisations are starting to question the need for large, expensive offices for all employees and lets hope will embrace a more flexible future.

The challenges that come with this are many. Having the right tools in place to communicate and corordinate become more and more important. Organisations need to plan for flexible work and ensure processes are defined and understood by everyone. I read an amazing book on this subject, check it out here.

Evaluating the change?

It would be very easy once we emerge from lockdown to crave a shift back to business as usual. There’s always comfort in maintaining the status quo and it’s easy to see how some business will relish the chance to get back to their view of normal. That overlooks what a great opportunity this has been presented to us all. I believe there will be some good to come from our enforced lockdowns. Obviously there’s nothing to be found in the outbreak but the future may tell a different story.

Just look at the advances being made in vaccine development. As many a scientist will tell you war and war like circumstances are often hotbeds of advancement because they bring neccesity to the table. The same could be said of now.

I challenge the smart organisations amongst us to think critically about how lockdown has impacted their organisations, good and bad. Positives will be found and they need to be absorbed into our normal business lives.

Having the tools to sustain change

This period in time has either been really hard or really easy. Some organisations are set-up for flexible working some are not. Some industries cannot support flexible working at all some can. Middle ground is a difficult place to occupy. But that’s OK. For those that can embrace it and to reiterate my earlier point the tools and process to make flexible working better than the traditional office trudge are vital. Amazemeet recognised this for meetings some time ago with a clear drive to hyper efficient meetings. The difference now is that rather than having more time to actually work in the office, you have more time to work and spend with your family. It’s also where project management tools like Asana come into their own. All these cloud based solutions are completely agnostic when it comes to geography and that’s vitally important for a distributed workforce.

Start planning for the future

Embracing lasting change is likely to mean a complete rethink of the physical space we occupy as organisations. We need to start thinking about the individual rather than centring how our organisations function around a place. This will take time and require a huge shift in mindset but it’s a great first step to moving out of a factory mentality.

How great would it be if our office was simply a place to meet colleagues and customers, a place to connect physically and our workplace was wherever we chose it to be?

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running effective meetings, especially online.

Try it Free.

The hidden cost of crappy meetings

hidden cost of crappy meetings

There’s a hidden cost of crappy meetings and some of us are starting to realise just how much this cost really is.

Hot on the heals of our recent ugly truth about meetings blog we wanted to explore this underlying cost the vast majority of us are paying. There’s a number of distinct sides to this, first and for most people most importantly is the financial cost. Second, there’s the cost to our wellbeing and there’s also the potential environmental cost. This week we explore each one in turn, hopefully it will open some eyes to what I guess a lot of you out there already suspect.

Meetings are unproductive, that costs money.

When surveyed executives consider nearly 70% of meetings to be unproductive. That’s more than two thirds and to put it into context the infographic we recently published put a figure on this, $37 Billion in the US alone. Let’s spin that on it’s head and assume we stopped having half of those unproductive meetings that could be nearly $20 Billion saved.

It’s estimated that across organisations the amount of time spent in meetings equates to around 15% for all employees. As you move up the ranks that increses dramatically to upwards of 50%. The meeting time is one thing but executives estimate they spend upwards of 4 hours on meeting prep. So again if the 70% figure for meetings being unproductive is true more than 30% of an executives working time could be considered unproductive, because that’s the time spent in crappy meetings.

This is quite frankly stark. It’s hard to pin down exactly what’s to blame. It seems somewhat of a cop out to suggest it’s purely down to the technology, a meeting run well via a video conference is still a well run meeting. What is apparent though, that like most technology we’ve adopted, certain practices have become commonplace without thinking about the wider context and the impact they have as a whole. It seems there’s a symbiotic relationship between the ease of facilitation and the effectiveness of outcomes.

As a marketer the psychology is quite simple to me, things that are easy are often assigned a low value and perhaps this is where we’ve gone wrong. Meetings used to be about productivity and outcomes but we seem to have shifted to a place where meetings are more about having meetings because it’s so easy to have them.

It’s a dangerous place for corporations to be.

Meetings impact on wellbeing.

Employee wellbeing is becoming more and more important to organisations. They realise that happy, engaged employees are more productive, more motivated and less likely to look for employment elsewhere. Crappy, unproductive meetings do nothing to assist. In fact multiple surveys suggest that having better meetings is a route to improving employee wellbeing.

It’s not to be underestimated. Count up the sick days, the drain on talent in an organisation and general lack of productivity and I bet you will find a correlation to bad meetings. It’s a survey that needs to be done, watch this space!

It’s sadly no coincidence that the phrase “A happy workforce is a productive workforce” is certainly very true. The quickest way to mess it up is to disengage the workforce and bad meetings are a quick way to do that. They aren’t the only factor but like many things in our working lives they contribute to the sum of all the other issues and can certainly tip the scales.

Jeff Bezos certainly thinks so. He avoids meetings before 10am, limits attendance to the number of people that can be fed by two pizzas and has banned Powerpoint!

What’s the environmental impact?

This is probaly harder to quantify especially as a huge number of meetings take place remotely. However as the technology has become a part of our working lives there’s always a cost. Server farms create pollution and we certainly need lots of those to power the tools we take for granted.

Technology requires power and for the most part we still rely on power sources that are not very green. Great steps have been made by corporations to buy power from renewable sources but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

data centres in the U.S. alone are projected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020. Data center efficiency and sustainability is a universal challenge that transcends companies, geographies, and workloads – and there’s no simple solution.”

Colocation America

The technology infrastructure required to support these systems is immense. A large data centre can use more power than a small town. Sadly this way outstrips the capacity delivered by renewable energy. It’s a big issue that’s rarely reported because it’s to a large extent invisible.

It’s not all bad news.

Amazemeet aren’t alone trying to fix this. The hidden cost of crappy meetings is starting to be understood by a host of organisations for whom productivity is vitally important and meetings are squarely in their radar. We’re doing our bit because we know we have to have meetings, we want to make the unavoidable ones great and cut out the unproductive ones where we can.

Let’s get back in control of our meetings

Try Amazemeet, free

Making Brainstorming Work; CEO of Medium on How To End Meetings

brainstorm

Making Brainstorming Work

Image: jeanbaptisteparis 

To make brainstorming work, have two meetings to determine “what to do” and then “how to do it”.

Brainstorming if not properly conducted can waste time and creative juice.

To make it work, leadership influencer Dan Rockwell has a tip: Successful brainstorming calls for two meetings.

The first meeting is a “What might we do” meeting.

The second is a “How might we do it” meeting.

Divide the efforts and focus maximises creativity and follow through. 

Originally from the blog of Dan Rockwell

Tell Me What You Heard

hearing-ear

Image credit: Paul Townsend

Explaining something to someone and not sure they got it – simply ask them to tell you what they understood you said.

In some cultures, the concept of “saving face” is very important.

Sometimes in meetings, when a person explains something and others don’t quite understand, they wouldn’t ask because they don’t want to be thought of as slow, lack of knowledge, or being distracted.

In other cases, it’s simply misunderstanding.

The consequences: misalignment, unclear expectations, may lead to recurring meetings in the future.

As you explain something to someone, make sure they got it by asking them to say what they have understood from you.

How To End A Meeting

end-meeting

Image: Robert McGoldrick 

At the end of the meeting, have a “closing round” to give each participant a chance to comment on the meeting and know where the group is at. At the end of meetings, have a closing round to give each person a chance to comment on the meeting. h/t @ev Click To Tweet

Ev Williams, CEO of Medium has a wonderful idea: The facilitator/host goes around the room asking everyone to make comments, say how they feel about what were discussed.

This allows people to get things off their chest and receive feedback about how the meeting can be improved. They might come up with ideas/ issues that are worth noted but otherwise ignored.

At Amazemeet, we have a section called “Off topics” so these points can be recorded – have you tried that?

Closing rounds can also get the ones who didn’t have a chance contribute to voice their thoughts. And most of all, these rounds can be fun and positive they”re a great way to better meetings.

So try that out and let us know how it went!

Originally published by Ev Williams, CEO of Medium

Meeting Scheduling: 4 Tips To Do It Right

meeting scheduling 4 tips

Often time, the way a meeting is scheduled determines how successful it is.

This month’s productivity tips focus on how to transform your usual meetings  into productive, short, and well-spent time – by reflecting on the old old ways of how they are usually conducted, trying to understand the design flaws no one questioned before.

Our featured leadership and time management influencers offer some tips to blow a fresh air into your stuffy, lengthy, and ineffective meetings.

Let’s dive in.

Parkinson’s Law in Meetings

time

A meeting is as long as it’s designed to be – start with the agenda, not time, and collaborate on making duration estimation.

Parkinson’s Law is stated as “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

In the context of meetings, the duration of the meeting is as long as it’s designed to be. If one sets out to have a 1-hour long meeting, it is usually the time it takes regardless of the significance of the agenda discussed.

For example : a manager wants to hold a 30-minute meeting to reach a decision, even though the decision can be reached in 5 minutes, chances are that the discussion will expand to fill the full 30 minutes.

To stop wasting time on this type of meeting, start with the agenda, not the duration.

Make it clear what the things are that you want to talk about – start with Purpose and Agenda, estimate beforehand, and together with other participants how long each item takes, then come up with the meeting duration.

Try this on Amazemeet’s canvas.

Start short meetings X minutes before the hour

clock

Efficient meetings are short ones. The easiest way to have a short meeting is to start it X minutes before the hour.

For example, a meeting at 8:40 that is scheduled to go to 9 rarely goes past 9.

One reason for this is most other events and meetings start on the even hour. So there is often an urgency to finish the short meeting.

And “odd” meeting start times are easy to remember.

I encourage everyone to set their device alarms a couple of minute before each meeting so they are not late.

From Jim Estill – a Leadership blogger and influencer at CEO Blog – Time Leadership

image: clock

Scheduling Meetings like Warren Buffett

Schedule meetings one day in advance so you get to determine how you spend the next foreseeable 24 hours as you feel like it.

Badly timed meetings are bad.

Warren Buffett has been said to usually not schedule his meetings more than one day in advance.

Someone who wants to meet him will be told to call in on Thursday if they want to meet him on Friday.

By doing this, he can determine how he wants to spend his time in the next 24 hours instead of weeks or months in the future. His schedule is therefore relevant, not prescient.

Try doing this for your next meetings, the ones when someone just asks for your time and attention – not dependent on other factors.

This won’t make you as successful as Buffett, but it gives you the power to decide how to spend your next foreseeable hours, and puts you into a more pro-active position in how to conduct your meetings.

Originally written by Jason Fried

image credit

The magical 30-minute meeting

pinapple-halved

Halve the time of your normal 1-hour meeting to experience more focus and success. h/t @peterbregman Click To Tweet

Often we allocate 1 hour for most meetings, phone calls or appointments. Why should that be our standard allotment for so many things?

When we halve that slot – compressing time – people are more likely to: focus on critical points instead of stretching to reach the 1 hour by doing unnecessary tasks and having going-no-where conversations (think Parkinson’s Law).

Moreover, everyone will tend to be on time and come prepared (now that you only have 30 minutes!). Every minute makes a difference.

Most importantly, compressing time spent on meetings and other tactical work gives you more unstructured time to spend on activities and people you love.

Originally written by Peter Bregman

image credit

Synthesis Work, Manager Daily 5 Minutes and Personal Goals in Meetings

outcome

Outcomes Over Outputs

Outputs are the “what”and outcomes “why”; always ask “Did your outputs make the difference that you expected in your outcomes?”

The 101: Outputs are what you produce e.g pizza, outcomes are what happen as a result of producing and consuming them e.g satisfy my hunger and impact are the effect they have, usually on the longer term e.g got fat.

Outputs are the ‘what’ and outcomes are the ‘why’.

So ask yourself ‘WHY am I doing WHAT I’m about to do’ and if you can’t answer that clearly consider not doing it.

If it is unclear/fuzzy ,take a little time to make it clearer.

In designing your meetings – consider the ‘Purpose’ as your ‘Outcome’ and the agenda and the actions as the ‘outputs’.

At the end of your meeting - did your outputs make the difference that you expected in your outcome? Click To Tweet

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Read more about Managing Outcomes vs Outputs by Deborah Mills-Scofield on Harvard Business Review

Stop Using Meetings For Synthesis Work

business-meeting

Use meetings to chart the course and finalise, not synthesising on the spot. h/t @helpscout Click To Tweet

Collaboration is not useful in every situation. When coming together as a group, people are better at planning and deciding on projects than creating separate pieces, and fixing them together.

To create and produce require deep work and alone time.

If you do this kind of work in the meeting, it not only makes the meeting unnecessarily longer, but also unproductive.

So next time, hold back from synthesising individual works during the meeting, do that in everyone’s own time, and only come together to decide and finalise.

Originally from the blog: https://www.helpscout.net/blog/bad-meetings/

The Daily 5 Minutes For Every Manager

5-sunny

Everyday managers would speak to at least one of their employees for 5 minutes without an agenda to nurture relationships.

“Managers keep a checklist of names so they don’t miss anyone and make this 5-minute talk a daily habit ” – said Rosa Say – acclaimed Leadership and Workplace Culture Coach.

Both sides will start treating each other like people as employees will share their family stories, their struggles and even ideas for improvement.

Managers will know their subordinates better as individuals, therefore gain a more accurate basis of judgment.

In the workplace, acts to facilitate employee-manager relationship are quite underused.

Making an effort to understand one another improves clarity of responsibilities and working expectations.

Originally from the blog of Rosa Say

Never Attend Any Meeting Without a Personal Goal

erik-weihenmayer

Have a clear personal goal attending any meeting. h/t @simpletonbill Click To Tweet

Ask yourself: as a result of this meeting, what can you know, how do you want to feel, what do you do after.

Bill Jensen suggests asking yourself these KNOW- FEEL- DO questions before attending any meeting:

KNOW: What is the one thing you must KNOW that you couldn’t get without attending the meeting? What information, action, advice?

FEEL: How you want to FEEL during the meeting? Included, active, to experience moments of new insights.

DO: As an outcome or result of this meeting, what is the one thing you expect to DO?

Don’t have the answers? Either don’t attend, or make yourself a clear purpose to address these questions during the meeting.

Originally published on medium by Bill Jensen

Image fun-fact: Speaking of setting personal goals, on May 25th 2001, Erik Weihenmayer reached the summit of Mount Everest – and still remains the only blind person to have ever done that.