Tired of losing countless hours of productivity to ill-planned meetings? Do you leave meetings with the desired outcome still on your TODO list? Adding meeting vigilance to your repertoire will level up your meeting game in no time flat!
Read on to see the strategies and rules that I use to keep my meetings productive and streamlined.
What Is Meeting Vigilance?
Well, the “meeting” part, I’m pretty sure you got that, right?
So let’s focus on “vigilance”. Google returns the following definition: “the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties”. So it means gatekeeping for meetings and making sure they are set up for success.
You should make sure your own meetings are in good shape. You should also practice meeting vigilance for any meeting you’re invited too. If it is going to take the time of others and yourself then you should make sure that you’re getting the most out of your time.
When Organizing Meetings
Set An Agenda
Make sure to provide a clear agenda and specify the desired outcome in your meeting invites. This allows those you are inviting to prepare for the meeting in advance. When your meeting comes around you will find it helps propel the agenda forward. You spend less time doing upfront explaining. You can progress the group toward the desired outcome.
Shave Off Some Time
Schedule a 30-minute meeting for 25 minutes and 1-hour meeting for 50 minutes. This saves 10 minutes an hour per meeting. This also helps you have an excuse for playing things tight to the agenda. If you get certain meetings honed you may even see 50-minute meetings (which use to take an hour or more….) being able to fit into 25-minute blocks. That pays out for everyone who has to attend.
Mark People As Optional
If someone isn’t a key attendee, mark them as optional. This allows people to evaluate whether they need to attend. You may find some of these people will skip the meeting. This leaves more time for those people who are critical for arriving at the desired outcome.
Run Your Meeting
So you used Meeting Vigilance when creating your invite. Now you’re in the meeting. It is just as important to practice meeting vigilance here. If people derail the meeting away from the specified agenda bring it right back to where it needs to be.
When long debates begin eating up meeting time remember to drive toward a decision. Often people argue over the 3% they disagree on when they agree on 97% of the points. This is usually a complete waste of time. Evaluate and be vocal as the meeting organizer and agenda owner.
When Responding To A Meeting Invite
Be Ready to Say No
If you’re practicing meeting vigilance then prepare to say “No” to meetings that are not set up for success. That’s right, I’m saying you will have to actually “No” to some meeting invites! Don’t freak out or get anxious about it though. If you explain yourself and are consistent people will understand it to be professionalism.
When To Say No
If you receive an invite with no agenda the organizer has not given it the proper meeting vigilance. When a meeting lacks a clear agenda you’re likely to encounter the following issues:
– People attending the meeting who don’t belong or add anything. (They are unable to self-filter whether they need to attend or not.)
– People who are not prepared to engage in the meeting topics. (An agenda lets people prepare in advance.)
– No final decision or desired outcome reached. (You missed the opportunity to lay out what you wanted to gain from the meeting.)
When this happens, RSVP as “Not attending” and send a note to the organizer asking for an agenda. It is important to reinforce good meeting vigilance habits. So make sure to change your RSVP to “Attending” once they add an agenda.
Agenda Topic Discussable Over Email
After reading the agenda, ask yourself if the group could discuss the agenda topic over email or IM. If so, ask the organizer and other attendees to kickoff of a discussion via one of those mediums. It will save precious time and conference room space.
If the meeting consists of status updates, consider generating a report that can serve as a stand-in for the meeting. If you keep the report updated with the latest status it can replace the need for these types of meetings. Favor reports instead of meetings whenever possible.
There are lots of ways to practice meeting vigilance. I haven’t listed them all here, but you have some ideas that you can begin with. Please post your own ideas and experiences in the comments below.