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How to make meetings more productive

I don’t know about you, but I have to say I’m not a great fan of committee meetings… of any kind. Often they deteriorate into weird mix of tangents and mini discussions. And worst of all, very little gets decided!

So I have to say I was highly impressed with The London Chorus committee meeting down in Piccadilly yesterday evening. You would usually think that eleven talented and creative people (plus me) in one room would turn into a bit of a rabble, but they managed to keep everything under control, obviously had strict rules on individual discussions and had a clear set agenda.

It was great to talk about how to help them get more funding and sponsorship and share ideas with some obviously highly intelligent people.

I often dread this kind of group meeting because they can get bogged down in detail and not feel hugely useful. This was totally the opposite and definitely one of the best run meetings I’ve been to.

It prompted me to think – so what does a great meeting look like? Be it a sales meeting, a charity committee meeting or a board meeting. Here’s some ideas I’ve seen work well…

Well planned

A printed agenda is vital. It then becomes a great tool for showing everyone the plan for the meeting and prevents the attendees jumping ahead.

Concise

Often this means knowing the objective of the meeting – is it to share information, brainstorm or get decisions. Once you know that, make sure you have the minimum number of people in the room to achieve that (the more you have the more chaotic it can become) and stay on track.

Everyone arrives on time

Nothing stops a meeting in it’s tracks and bores the life out of the group than having to explain everything again to late comers. Some companies have fines for turning up late or the late comer’s section of the meeting will be postponed.

Controlled

Rules are great for controlling situations, though everyone needs to be able to talk when appropriate and not feel too confined. Buzz words can be used to bring the room back to order if matters digress. In our business meetings we use phrases like ‘blue sky’ and ‘pineapple’ (daft I know) to indicate when we’re getting off track or becoming negative.

Relevant

There’s nothing worse than being expected to listen to people expound about their latest successes (or challenges) and have no input to give. It’s like being invited to a party where everyone speaks another language. Make sure the information and discussions are relevant to as many people as possible.

Time limited

I once read a film review where the critic had complained about the increasing running time of movies. Apparently the average person can sit for 90 minutes without needing a comfort break and, though crude, it’s worth bearing in mind when planning your agenda. Either have frequent breaks, or keep the meeting to an hour and a half, 2 hours maximum.

Keeping Order

What worked very well in yesterdays meeting is there was one person who was in charge of keeping the room in order. The chairman ran the meeting, but the minute-taker kept control of the group by bringing them back into the discussion when little chats started.

Other things to keep on a tight reign

· Decision making that doesn’t involve the whole group

· Too much “updating” (unless that’s what the meeting is for in which case keep it interesting)

· Distraction due to mobile phones ringing or being on silent

Well done to The London Chorus! It’s great to see organisations getting it right!

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