What is the Purpose of Meetings? The Key to Effective Business Meetings.
I’d bet that we’ve all been in a meeting which we didn’t really need to attend. Or even a meeting which we’ve left thinking, ‘okay, what was that actually about? and what do I need to do next because of it?’. They can be a bit of a drain on your time, in which you sit about drinking coffee, talking about nothing that concerns you directly, and worrying about the things at your desk that you need to get on with. You ask… what is the purpose of meetings?
How do you keep it from running on forever? How do you ensure that people know their roles, responsibilities, and actions subsequent to the meeting? Is it possible to politely not attend?
I feel, meetings should always be directed by ‘purpose’ or intention. You might respond to this with a ‘well, yeah – of course’, but most people don’t really recognise this guiding principle. Why are we having this meeting? What is the intention?
By bringing it into the forefront of our minds, however, it can make meetings more focused, more productive, and, in the end, more fulfilling.
What is the Purpose of Meetings – Intention.
Meetings, done properly, can be critical to the success and culture of your organisation. Everyone can ensure that they are on the same page, people know where they are heading, and opportunities can be aired.
But this can only really be achieved if everyone is clear on the intention of this or that meeting. That means being straightforward about what needs to be achieved by the end of the meeting.
I think it is incredibly revealing if everyone who is present cannot state in a single sentence what the meeting is intended to achieve. How many meetings have you attended that you or others have remarked, I don’t know why we are having this meeting!? What is the purpose of meetings? They never achieve anything but waste my time.
This intention should be outlined in the meeting invite and associated email. Nominate someone to be responsible for keeping the meeting in line with that intention. Remember when you were at school and your teacher told you to underline the key works in an exam question to make sure you stayed ‘on point’ and answered the question? This is the same, frequently ‘check in’ with the meeting intention and ask is this relevant to this meeting.
However, being clear about the purpose of a meeting also allows you to be clear about who actually needs to attend. Honestly, there is no point calling a whole team into a meeting when the purpose regards only four or five of them.
An agenda can be a great way to ensure you explore all the relevant points, the power to let everyone speak, know who you need to attend and creates the structure to keep track of decisions made on each of the agenda items.
This prevents the bane of the lives of employees: emails clarifying the points, decisions, and actions clarified in meetings. But it also makes apparent when the meeting has finished -when all the points have been discussed.
TIP: Make sure you outline the intention and agenda ahead of time, give people at least 24 hours to read the information so they can come to the meeting prepared.
Who needs to be there?
With a clear intention and outline of what will be covered, you should create the environment in which people have the autonomy to decline a meeting if they need to. If they read the clearly outlined intention and the concise agenda and feel they cannot contribute to that discussion, they should be able to decide whether this purpose concerns them or if they have something to contribute. If you are a manager or leader in your organisation, you should be able to trust your team to discern what makes an effective use of their time.
Want to improve your Zoom Meetings? Check out this article…
Set a time limit and stick to it. Apply Parkinson’s Law to your meetings.
In the fifties, the historian, C. Northcote Parkinson, published an essay in The Economist that began with the following observation:
“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
Be aware that the more time you allocate for a meeting, the longer the discussion. Less time will result in a concise discussion. Try capping meetings at 45 mins – no chance to overrun. Make someone responsible for ‘keeping time’ almost doing a countdown in the meeting ‘twenty minutes left’. It is a great way to keep meetings focused.
It sounds mad, but how many times have you come out of a meeting and realised, there was no outcome, no decision? This is common. However, with your clear intention and agenda outlined you can tick off each as you discuss it and have an outcome from each.
So, at the end of your meeting, make sure you review you intention and ask have we achieved this? Next review each of the agenda items and go round all attendees towards the end of the meeting and confirm who is doing what and by when. Note down the clear objectives to implement and integrate in the coming days and weeks.
In all conversations about efficiency and productivity, however, it is worth insisting on something again maybe a little obvious.
Yes, you and your team should be able to decide whether the meeting concerns you directly. Yes, everyone should have the autonomy to assess whether they are better placed attending a meeting or finishing what they are doing.
But meetings are often a great place to bring teams together as human beings – rather than just as email addresses. They can be important reminders that people do work in teams, something people forget when completing their own tasks.
Collaborating together and combining skills can be an amazing experience for all present. These interactions build company culture and forge relationships. So, make sure that this great opportunity of meetings is not missed.
Want to learn more?
Listen to my interesting podcast on HOW to use Structure to Maximise Your Productivity