Supposedly the #1 fear is public speaking. I bet many of us have a fear that runs a close second: logging on and seeing your day full of back to back meetings. The dread!

It’s no wonder we can’t get any work done. Meetings don’t solve problems or create strategic plans, people do.

We’ve all had our share of bad meetings. They run long, they’re incredibly boring or they simply don’t accomplish much.  Whatever the issue, the danger of a poorly-run meeting is that your team may lose focus.

To make your meetings more productive, let’s talk about some meeting don’ts.

#1:  Don’t forget to prepare.

Failing to prepare means preparing to fail. A. A. Milne, best known as the author of Winnie the Poor, put it best when he said: “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”

Make sure you have an agenda, a recognized meeting leader, the roles of participants laid out, and the end goals clearly stated. If you don’t have all of these elements, cancel the meeting and get back to your desk and prepare for real this time.

#2:  Don’t invite everyone.

You may find yourself inviting more people than necessary, simply because it’s easier to invite, to say yes, than to not invite, or say no.
But remember, this isn’t like exchanging Valentines with Kindergarten classmates. It’s OK not to involve everyone. Extraneous participants will only bog down the meeting. You must select the appropriate participants, based on the agenda, the meeting type, and the desired end results.

#3:  Don’t use a meeting to share a message that is really directed towards one person.

So, Eric’s been late to work, consistently, for the last month. Is the best way to handle this to hold a meeting with your entire team and “remind” everyone of the work schedule? That way Eric will get the message and you don’t have to hold an uncomfortable one-on-one meeting with him! Oy. That’s the Cowardly Lion approach.  Don’t waste other people’s time.

Meetings should be a manager’s best friend. They are ideal occasions to delegate items to your team members, allowing them to present data they’ve analyzed, partnerships they’ve forged, and deals they’ve created. Take this Leila’s House of Corrections challenge: can you cut your meetings by 1/3 and still accomplish what’s on your plate? Yes, you can.

© Leila Bulling Towne 2010

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