How to make office meetings productive

How to make office meetings productive

The term ‘Meetings’ has become synonymous with all self-confessed ‘busy people’. 25 to 50 percent or more of most managers’ time and talent is usually tied-up in meetings. Considering how badly most meetings are run these days, it’s no surprise to learn that the age-old practice of getting a group of people together for a common goal has become such a contemptible and dreaded activity.

Most people even think that it is just wasting precious time which could have otherwise been spent fixing bugs, designing applications, polishing pitches, writing reports — anything that involves actually working rather than sitting in a room (or on a call) staring into space.

It is hence important to realise that meetings are relevant and conducive to a successful and productive working environment. We can’t rid the world of meetings. After all, the benefits of meeting does sometime outweigh the costs. There are steps we could take to make sure that our meetings are more productive and that we meet more wisely.

Below are the Q-A sessions in Rediff chat answered by Amit Bansal, the founder and CEO of PurpleLeap.

Riaz asked, Amit: Many persons unable to understand the jist of the entire meeting fail to question. This is another disaster and guest lose interest. At the end the meeting is branded as boring. Do u suggest time bound meetings?
Amit Bansal answers, Absolutely. Meetings MUST be time bound. One hour is a good time to make a couple of good decisions.

Samm asked, Thanks amit … I believe to make any biz meeting effective and sucessful the management needs to have clear cut strategies and understanding with in team in place ?? what do u say ??
Amit Bansal answers, True… and like I said before…not arriving at a solution is not an option in any meeting.

Riaz asked, Hi Amit, Cluster meeting where the entire day is utilsed. First they explain what happened viz figures,then what to do and what went wrong. Ifn u see these kind of meeting the guest do not gain but the company exe utilsie the entire time. Lunch and tea, by the time the time is over. how do u rate these meeting . pls comment for positive result and participation of guests.
Amit Bansal answers, The steps to make meeting effective do not change with the length of the meeting. Lack of direction in turn can many any kind of meeting a disaster and sheer waste of time.

Samm asked, Hey Amit ..throw some light on an effective business meetings ?
Amit Bansal answers, Good business meetings should have: 1. 3 to 4 points of discussion only. 2. An agenda which is distributed to all participants before the meeting. 3. Only the relevant number of people required to take a decision. 4. A discussion which is directed towards reaching a solution or a plan of action. 5. A clarity that ‘not arriving at a solution’ is not an option. 6. And finally a conclusion with action points and people responsible to execute the action.

shashi asked, i have felt in most of our company meets that managment always try to impose their point of view. although we are the front liners and know the situation better than managment. but still they are not willing to take our point of view. in case we counter , they can always take it otherwise. what to do in those circumtances
Amit Bansal answers, I think strategy is important. Before you bring a point in a meeting why don’t confide in a senior member who is also a part of the meeting. Do this before the meeting. In that case you will have a supporter from the senior group in a meeting. Once you have even one supporter from the senior group you will be heard. Strategise a bit!

lalitha asked, In a group of 25 people meeting iam only a girl, that to they book in overseas,facing so much shy and dissapointment, plz tel me how to overcome
Amit Bansal answers, Well you will have to take up the ownership of talking. Write down the points you would like to discuss. It helps when you write things down.

as asked, Hi Amit , What should be a maximum time frame for a meeting
Amit Bansal answers, Not more than an hour. Any meeting going beyond it means you are not going anywhere with the agenda.

subhranath asked, Hi Amit how to combat negetive and baseless criticism in a meting without losing the patience?
Amit Bansal answers, Directing it back to arriving at a solution. Simple sentences like, ‘appreciate your thoughts but we have limited time to arrive to a solution’. I think emotional intelligence has to be increased in such situations.

Venkat asked, Hi Amit, we often write down the minutes of the meeting and at times there are action points are forgotten until the next meeting is up. Is there any way to be more organized about this, than just putting it in the MOM?
Amit Bansal answers, Someone has to follow up on the MOM with people. I hope you have the name of the person responsible to take action against action points. The host of the meeting needs to follow it up with them before the next meeting.

subhra asked, Hi Amit.In our departmental meetings some supervisors try to portray only negetives and excuses. Is there a way to make things right?
Amit Bansal answers, The point is, even if negatives are discussed everyone must know that at the end of the meeting they have to arrive at a solution. The position of ‘this problem does not have a solution’ is not an option. If that is made clear, people can talk about negatives its alright.

Aniket asked, Hi Amit, we have very organized meetings. Our manager sends us a agenda of the meeting along with the time and date. But once we meet, usually the talk revolves more on other things which are not in the agenda at all. This means that when I go to the meeting I would have not prepared to discuss the points which finally are being put on the table. How can I ask my manager to give us a fair warning in advance about such things?
Amit Bansal answers, Yes you must. And also let him know that his efforts of sending an agenda and planning an organized meeting are going in vain. I am sure it will help.

lavanya asked, Hi Amit, I have a problem with meetings. They somehow put me off to sleep. Reminds me at times of the lectures we used to attend back in college! Some of these guys talk in a level which only they can understand and so lowly mortals like me think it better to dream off in gaga land… How can I put across this fact to the team and ask them to stick to the point without being rude?
Amit Bansal answers, Why are you closed about understanding the language used by different kinds of people? You will have to deal with such people all the time during your career. Look at it as a learning experience. Try see what you can take back from this experience.

Saurabh asked, Amit, Meetings are often called by top management to say what they have to say and I feel that they do not actually want to listen to what the freshers have to say. in such cases why not just send a mail and not waste people’s time to congregate in the hall to just make a speech.
Amit Bansal answers, I think look at it as an experience. As a fresher you can observe how people speak in public, understand the kind of people who work in your organization. There is a lot you can learn just with the non-verbal communication that people do. Soak in the experience I would say. Sometimes the top management congregates people for such meeting to create a platform for people from different departments to meet.

assboss asked, i have meeting tommorow with general manager but i dont confidence pls suggest what should i do to make good impression?
Amit Bansal answers, Know everything about the topic of discussion. Keep all the data handy. Anticipate uncomfortable questions be prepared for them. And run over your presentation at least 3 to 4 times.

tt asked, Pls advise us how to conduct a goal oriented meeting and what is the approach ?
Amit Bansal answers, Please check the answer posted for Jiya.

Jiya asked, Hi Sir, I work in a small organization and we usually have our team meetings on every friday to take stock of the work that was done during the week and also to plan ahead for the week ahead. Somehow I’m not sure we are able to brainstorm as I want my team to. Do you have any suggestions? How can I bring a little more life into our meetings?
Amit Bansal answers, Write down these three things before you go into the meeting: 1. What is the purpose of this meeting? 2. How do I want the process of discussion to happen? 3. What do I want to achieve at the end of this meeting? 4. How much time do I have to do all of the above? try this out.

JP asked, A brainstornming session with about 1o people in a room ends up with lots of chaos .. how to handle this ?
Amit Bansal answers, The host of the meeting needs to moderate a meeting and ensure every body else is in the right direction as per the meeting agenda. If people digress bring them back stating that they are digressing. At the same time all must know that at the end of the discussion a solution must be arrived at. A lot of times people discuss in a meeting thinking its not very important to arrive at a solution today. That will only turn a meeting into chaos.

shashi asked, suppose if your employees are not motivated internaly. do u think even in that case office meeting do matters
Amit Bansal answers, Meetings can be just to motivate each other talking about future plans within the department and uprising each other of current situations within the organization. It can be a very good bonding activity where people share their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Khalsaa asked, This is my 1st meeting on ‘Marketing’ presentation of my official career, any suggestions.
Amit Bansal answers, All the best!! Prepare well and anticipate questions.

Shreyas asked, Hi Amit, for our weekly meetings I do have points to say but often when we sit for meetings I find that I have either forgotten the point or am not able to put across in words that are impressive. Any way i can improve on this?
Amit Bansal answers, You must create a notebook for meeting agenda. I know someone who used to use the last page of her diary just for this. As she address those points in a meeting she would strike it off. If you have written it down somewhere I am sure you will be able to remember and talk about it as well.

sankesh asked, Amitji, my manager likes to call meetings every week. Most of the time we feel that we are wasting time on Mondays when we should actually be taking stock of our work and going ahead with it. How can we make our meetings more productive and short?
Amit Bansal answers, Any meeting happening without a clear agenda will be unproductive. So when you walk into a meeting you must have a written list of things that will be discussed. The discussion must not digress from the specific list of things decided earlier. Any new agenda should be added only in the next meeting. Moreover, a clear output should be arrived at after the meeting. And everything should be contained in some time duration. You cannot have a meeting going on forever. Remember, the model is Purpose…Process….Product and off-course timeline.

suresh asked, Hi Amit, don’t you think we could be more productive by not having meetings, but just having those same discussions via email?
Amit Bansal answers, Well unless the idea does not require brainstorming or if it’s between two people discussing over emails is alright. However if are looking at a larger group to contribute towards making a decision emails are not a good option. Sometimes emails are responded only at the end of the day, in such scenarios the whole idea of brainstorming dilutes. I think we must look at making meetings productive rather than eliminating them completely.

mamu asked, hi amit, i think 99 out of 100 times office meetings serve no purpose. They end up not reaching at any conclusion or concrete plan of action…why should we have office meetings?
Amit Bansal answers, Hi, meetings are an important part of any organization. We cannot work alone and to work together we need time to discuss and brainstorm. That needs us to organize meetings. However, i do understand the productivity of such meetings are under question. It all boils down to… purpose..process and product. Most often when we decide about meetings we are only looking at a process….we neither decide a clear purpose or expect a product. That’s what need to be looked at while planning the meeting.

Chat Date: October 28, 2011



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