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Cameron Herold

7 Ways to Make Meetings More Effective Over the Summer

When our meetings aren’t run properly, it’s a waste of time and money, especially during summer slump months. Here’s how to make meetings more effective over the summer.

Summer days at the office can drag on, and so can meetings. But meetings are expensive. Say you have 10 employees who each make $70,000 a year ($35 an hour, in other words). That’s $350 for a one-hour meeting. In fact, the average meeting costs about $500 to $1,000 an hour.

Other issues with meetings over the summer include lack of energy among participants, being away from your team and missing out on key issues, and also the need to sustain efficiency so that your time is best spent recharging and thinking of new ideas.

Does everyone have meetings on their mind this summer? No. But, it does affect us all whether we like it or not. Here are seven ways to make meetings work better for you, especially during slower months.

1. Try Creating an Agenda

Without question, every meeting must have a clear agenda distributed to attendees in advance. This is especially important in the summer when minds start to wander to visions of beaches and pools. If you skip creating an agenda, then your meetings can quickly go off track, get hijacked by a random topic, or include people who shouldn’t be attending. I’ve found that without an agenda guiding the discussion, it’s also common for attendees to ramble or engage in simultaneous side-conversations—all outcomes detrimental to taking your company to the next level.

2. Compress Time

In general, meetings and obligations tend to fill the space you give them. Estimate how long you think a meeting, or task, will take, and then cut it in half. By limiting the time, you increase your productivity, maximize efficiency, and implement a more highly profitable system of time management.

3. Consider a Retreat

Every leadership team and business area needs yearly and quarterly off-site retreats away from the constant distractions and demands of running the day-to-day business. These retreats generate alignment, build team unity, develop skills, and encourage productive engagement.

Often, the quarterly retreat is a full-day or half-day event that’s held in the city you do business in, but outside of your office walls. Typically, I will book a suite from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at a local hotel. But you can book a house or a business club if you prefer. The idea is to hold the event in a single day and to go off-site to shake up the thinking of your team. When you remove your people from their daily routines, it gives them space to think clearly and strategically about the future and what they, the team, and the company will focus on.

4. Try a Daily Huddle Meeting

Maybe your company is practicing summer hours. Maybe you are starved for time. The daily huddle is your answer. It’s a short, approximately seven-minute, all-company meeting designed to raise the energy level of the group and to ensure everyone is on the same page. The first couple of minutes you will spend sharing good news, before diving into the numbers, followed by the daily forecast, then the developmental update, then airtime to discuss any missing systems and frustrations, before finally wrapping it up with the cheer.

There’s no sitting down during these meetings; the daily huddle and adrenaline meeting everyone stands up because it forces people to move and think a little faster, without the luxury of getting too comfortable. The best time of day to run these meetings is around 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m., because this is when energy levels start to ebb. Part of your goal in the Daily Huddle is to boost those energy levels. You may choose to run the Daily Huddle from 10:55 a.m. to 11:02 a.m. and again from 1:55 p.m. to 2:02 p.m.

5. Virtual Meetings

If you are away and feel the need to participate in a meeting, you can do so virtually. Before you do this, there are some things to consider. Many people ask what they can do to make virtual meetings run smoothly. I’ve found that just being conscious of the obvious shortcomings of the technology goes a long way. If you’re on an UberConference call without video chat, remember the person on the other end can’t see you, so they don’t know when you want to chime in. The best thing you can do is to leave pauses in your speech to allow someone to jump in, whether that’s to ask a question, add a point, or just explain that something was inaudible.

People, some more than others, often rely a lot on nonverbal communication. Think about the way we acknowledge what someone is saying with a nod or a hand gesture. If someone on the other end of the line who has spoken for five solid minutes hears only silence on your end, at some point they might ask if you’re still there. Making the occasional small noise goes a long way for the person on the other end to know you’re still alive and listening to them.

6. Know Your Role

Every meeting must include five key roles: someone who moderates, a person who takes notes, someone who keeps track of time, and those who come prepared and ready to contribute. Each of these five roles is crucial to running successful meetings, and taking the time to assign each of the roles at the beginning of each meeting will make your meetings more efficient and effective. Knowing your role and the roles of others during meetings can help you save time at the office, so that you can expand time at the beach.

7. Be on Time

20% of Americans are chronically late. Not only does this waste time and money, it’s also a way of saying “screw you” without actually saying it. But whatever the excuse, people show up late for one reason: they haven’t stopped working soon enough. The best way to be early (read: on time) is to ensure your previous engagement doesn’t run late. You can accomplish this by adopting a mindset where you stop whatever you’re doing five minutes early. This gives you time to go to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee, say hi to your assistant, check emails, or grab a seat before the gun fires.

I also recommend carrying forward this concept of ending what you’re working on five minutes early when you’re in charge of a meeting. It’s a bit unusual, but ending the meeting five minutes early gives you and your team time to transition to the next meeting or activity.

The day has come to elevate your meetings and your role in them, and to use meetings as a tool to take your company and your career to the next level.
We have work to do — let’s get started.


About the Author

Cameron HeroldGet more tips on managing effective meetings in the new book Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business into One of the Most Valuable by Cameron Herold, best-selling author and founder of COO Alliance, which helps COO’s become better leaders.

StrategyDriven Meetings Best Practice

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StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals - Meetings Best PracticeKey to running an efficient meeting is a well-structured agenda. Such agendas provide structure through the assignment of topic facilitation and time intervals. These documents, published before the meeting, help presenters and attendees prepare for the meeting and then support meeting facilitators ensure the meeting stays on topic and on time.


Hi there! This article is available to StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor Remote Access and Dedicated Advisor clients and those who subscribe to one of the article's related categories. If you're already a Remote Access or Dedicated Advisor client or a related category subscriber, please log in to read this article. Not a client? We'd love to have you on board. Check out our StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor service options.
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Practices for Professionals – Meetings Best Practice 1: Limit Meeting Attendees

StrategyDriven Professional Meeting PrincipleMeetings provide a unique environment that facilitates collaboration through the provision of robust two-way communications. While other communications mechanisms facilitate information exchange, only meetings provide for the synchronous sharing of ideas – the dynamic interaction that enables groups to rapidly build on each other’s perspectives.


Hi there! This article is available to StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor Remote Access and Dedicated Advisor clients and those who subscribe to one of the article's related categories. If you're already a Remote Access or Dedicated Advisor client or a related category subscriber, please log in to read this article. Not a client? We'd love to have you on board. Check out our StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor service options.
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Practices for Professionals – Meetings: The Purpose of Holding Meetings

StrategyDriven Professional Meeting PrincipleBusiness professionals commonly attend multiple meetings each day. While consuming a significant portion of the individual’s time, these meetings seldom provide an adequate return on investment for the participant or meeting sponsor.


Hi there! This article is available to StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor Remote Access and Dedicated Advisor clients and those who subscribe to one of the article's related categories. If you're already a Remote Access or Dedicated Advisor client or a related category subscriber, please log in to read this article. Not a client? We'd love to have you on board. Check out our StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor service options.

The Advisor’s Corner – How Do I Deal with a Calendar Full of Meetings?

How Do I Deal with a Calendar Full of Meetings?Question:

How do I deal with a calendar full of meetings that are wasting my time?

StrategyDriven Response: (by Roxi Hewertson, StrategyDriven Principal Contributor)

I love meetings… when and only when they produce something useful. When they don’t, I stop going. Seriously, I gave up useless meetings just like I gave up greasy food, cold turkey, so to speak!

Dave Barry once said, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.” Well, lousy meetings anyway.

Indeed, there are great meetings and important ones I’d never want to miss. People need to congregate and exchanges things. We need to network, learn, collaborate, decide, discuss, chew on ideas, mind-meld, team-build, brainstorm and have fun together. There are plenty of fabulous reasons why people should have meetings, gatherings, and get togethers.

Yet, we have a serious meeting epidemic in this country. This is not my opinion; it’s a fact. Smart people study this stuff, and the reality is, we have been meeting for more hours each and every year since they started keeping track back in the 1950’s. It’s a bit like global warming – it creeps up on you and before you know it, your life is one big meeting desert or tsunami or both, at the same time, in the same meeting!

Email didn’t fix it. Whiz-bang meeting software didn’t fix it. Today, you can just throw on a t-shirt, sit at your computer, and be in a meeting with virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime. Yes, it’s a short commute, and convenient, but now instead of commuting, you are simply in another meeting. How’s that working for you?

There is a whole planet full of people suffering from bad meetings. You’d think it was contagious. Well, you’d be right. The way meetings are run in your organization IS a result of your internal culture, meeting protocols, and the meeting skills of the person running them. Every new person coming into the system generally conforms to those norms. So… ask yourself, “How healthy and productive is the meeting virus I am passing around?”

For those meetings you attend but don’t run, remember, it’s YOUR calendar. So take control of it. The next time you are about to agree to a meeting, try asking yourself these 5 questions:

  1. WHY are we having this meeting; what is the goal; what are the deliverables?
  2. WHOSE meeting is it?
  3. WHAT kind of a meeting do we need to have? In person, on the phone, virtual, standing up, off-site, formal, informal, etcetera.
  4. WHO should be there? Why?
  5. WHAT are our meeting ‘norms,’ and do I like them? If not, why am I going to this meeting and/or what am I going to do about it?

Once you decide, yes, you need a meeting, you need a purpose and an agenda. Every item on your agenda should have one of three purposes or a combination of them or it shouldn’t be there at all.

Information – Discussion -­ Decision

Information: no more than 20% of any meeting should be spent on information sharing – there are plenty of other and cheaper ways to share information other than meeting time.

Discussion: means getting input and ideas, hearing from the people in the group. Make sure you have a method to do that well.

Decision-making: use best practices and ask all the important questions when a decision needs to be made

Take control of your life and work by taking control of the time you spend in meetings that don’t matter, and making the time you do spend in meetings an investment that DOES matter.


About the Author

Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Hewertson is a no-nonsense business veteran revered for her nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach and practical, out-of-the-box insights that help both emerging and expert managers, executives and owners boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business. Through AskRoxi.com, Roxi — “the Dear Abby of Leadership” — imparts invaluable free advice to managers and leaders at all levels, from the bullpen to the boardroom, to help them solve problems, become more effective and realize a higher measure of business and career success.


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