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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 Practices for Professionals Best Practice

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.


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Sharon Drew Morgen

Meetings: The Purpose, The Pain, The Possibility

As business folk, we hold meetings regularly. Yet often we don’t accomplish what we set out to achieve. Why?

The Purpose

Meetings are held to accomplish a specific, beneficial outcome requiring the attendance of the right people with the right agenda.

The Problem/Pain

Often we end up with miscommunication, wasted time, incomplete outcomes, misunderstanding, lack of ownership and ongoing personnel issues – sometimes an indication of internal power and faulty communications issues.

The Possibility

With greater success we can: stimulate thinking; achieve team building, innovation, and clear communication; and efficiently complete target issues. Here are some problem areas and solutions:

People. When outcomes aren’t being met effectively it’s a people- and management problem including: fall-out, sabotage, and resistance; long execution times; exclusion of peripheral people; restricted creativity and communication; exacerbated power and status issues. Are the most appropriate people (users, decision makers, influencers) invited? All who have good data or necessary questions?

  • Rule: unless all – all – relevant people show up for the meeting, cancel it. It’s impossible to catch people up or have them collaborate, add creative thoughts, or discuss annoyances. Once it’s known that meetings aren’t held unless all are present, the frequency, responsibility, and motives shift.
  • Rule: unless all – all – of the people who will touch the outcome from the meeting’s goals are in some way represented, the outcome will not reflect the needs of all causing fallout later, with resistance, sabotage or a diminished outcome.

Agenda. No hidden agendas! Recipients of potential outcomes must be allowed to add agenda items prior to the meeting.

  • Rule: unless all – all – of the items of ultimate concern are on the agenda, the meeting will be restricted to meet the needs of a few with unknown consequence (resistance and sabotage).

Action. Too often, action items don’t get completed effectively. How do action items get assigned or followed up? What happens if stuff’s not done when agreed? How can additional meetings be avoided?

  • Rule: put a specific, consensual, and supervised method in place to ensure action items get accomplished as promised.
  • Rule: as meeting begins, get consensus on what must be accomplished for a successful outcome. This initial discussion may change agenda items or prioritize them, detect problems, assumptions, resistance before action items are assigned.

Discussion. How long do people speak? How do conversations progress? How do the proceedings get recorded? What is the format for discussions? How is bias avoided?

  • Rule: record (audio) each meeting so everyone who attends can have it available later. Folks who didn’t attend are not privy to this audio. (See People above).
  • Rule: design a time limit for speaking, and rules for topics, presentations, discussions, cross talk.
  • Rule: include periods of silence for thought, notes, reflection.

Understanding. Does everyone take away the same interpretation of what happened? How do you know when there have been miscommunications or misunderstandings?

  • Rule: unless everyone has the same perception of what happened for each topic, there is a tendency for biased interpretation that will influence a successful outcome.
  • Rule: one person (on rotation) should take notes, and repeat the understanding of what was said to get agreement for each item before the next item is tackled. This is vital, as people listen with biased filters and make flawed assumptions of what’s been said/agreed.

Transparency. Agendas should be placed online, to be read, signed-off, and added to.

  • Rule: whomever is coming to the meeting must know the full agenda.
  • Rule: everyone responsible for an action item must be listed with time lines, names of those assisting, and outcomes.

Accomplishments. Are items accomplished in a suitable time frame? What happens when they aren’t?

  • Rule: for each action item, participants must sign off on an agreeable execution. A list of the tasks, time frames, and people responsible must accompany each item, and each completed task must be checked off online so progress is accountable.
  • Rule: a senior manager must be responsible for each agenda item. If items are not completed in a timely way, the manager must write a note on the online communication explaining the problem, the resolution, and new time frame.

Meetings can be an important activity for collaboration and creativity if they are managed properly and taken as a serious utilization of time and output. Ask yourself: Do you want to meet? Or get work accomplished collaboratively?


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. (www.newsalesparadigm.com). She is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation®, the decision facilitation model that enables people to change with integrity. A pioneer who has spoken about, written about, and taught the skills to help buyers buy, she is the author of the acclaimed New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

To contact Sharon Drew at [email protected] or go to www.didihearyou.com to choose your favorite digital site to download your free book.