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Best Practices for Running Productive Meetings

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

If you're not following the three Ps your meeting is probably a waste of your time.

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockIf there's one thing we do not have enough of, it's time. Not having enough time to focus on critical projects and strategic initiatives is one of the top employee complaints. And, one of the biggest contributors to this challenge, in businesses of all sizes: the unproductive, distracting meeting.

"Businesses are constantly searching for ways to be more productive. They spend a lot of energy, time and resources looking for the silver bullet to productivity," said Marcelino Sanchez, executive director of Smart Change Solutions, a Detroit-based consultancy focused on helping enterprise clients drive organizational efficiencies and streamline business processes.

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Sanchez says that if companies were to approach meetings with "three P's" in mind, they'd stop wasting time on unnecessary meetings, and have significantly more time to focus on what counts: running the business. The three P's: Purpose, Product, Process.

Purpose – Is a meeting even necessary?

"A lot of meetings are informative," Sanchez said. "Informative meetings are a waste of time. Getting rid of informative meetings alone could probably alleviate half of all meetings, which would save a lot of time."

Sanchez points out that meetings that take place for the sheer purpose of sharing information could be accommodated through other vehicles, such as SharePoint or email.

Product – What do you want to achieve?

And, if the meeting is not informative, next ask yourself what it is that you wish to accomplish. Take a few moments to consider what the tangible outcome from the meeting should be. Are you creating something? Coming to a decision? Devising a strategy? There's only a few reasons why a meeting needs to take place. Next, create a clear agenda that details the purpose of the meeting.

"This rule goes for any type of meeting. A phone call, a conversation, a presentation. Every meeting, every interaction, should have a clear purpose."
Sanchez warns that, "a checklist is not an agenda. A checklist is just a checklist." Meaning, you may have a discussion, but never really accomplish anything.

Process – How are you going to stay focused?

Sanchez said structure, or how the meeting unfolds is critical to keeping a group focused. Structure goes beyond an agenda. Think about how your group interacts and works through decisions. Take into consideration the time of day, the number of meeting attendees, even the room you'll be meeting in.

Answering questions and working through a conversation by writing down key points or decisions along the way is a great example. "The minute everyone writes something down, it becomes real, it becomes tangible," Sanchez said. "The act of writing helps people stay focused. All eyes are on the paper."

Other process and structure strategies could include breaking into smaller groups; asking the participants questions and giving them a set amount of time to write down their answers before sharing; moving around the room and stretching or changing seats at key intervals.

"Purpose, process and product—all three must be in alignment to have successful meetings," Sanchez said.

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