Weekly Meetings: Catalyst for Growth or Money Pit?

Becca here. I used to be a member of Weight Watchers.  Every week I would have to “check-in” and weigh myself. Then I would attend a meeting. The meetings were often an hour, sometimes longer. The mentor would always have a topic to discuss and then others would contribute. Success stories would be shared. Roadblocks discussed. Their website refers to the meetings as “inspiring” and “energizing.” But were they?

At first it was nice to have a group of like minded people, partners if you will, keeping me accountable. After some time of doing the program, I reached my goal.

And then the meetings felt routine. They got stale. The topics and successes redundant. I no longer felt I was getting any value out of the meeting. So I quit going. I would still drop in, from time to time, to check that I was maintaining my target, but I didn’t really participate. Eventually I stopped going all together.

As I look back, I realize I often feel the same way about business meetings. I start a new project and set up a standing weekly meeting. Everyone is enthusiastic at first, but then interest diminishes. The meetings feel less productive, and around the same time so does the project. That’s probably not a coincidence. So it’s got me wondering, are weekly meetings necessary?

Does This Really Warrant a Meeting?

I’m not here to knock meetings altogether. I mean I work from home with a tiny, 3 year old dictator; I crave grown up conversation that isn’t about excavators or fire trucks. I simply want to attend, and hopefully host, meetings that matter. As such, I’ve come up with two scenarios where I believe a meeting is absolutely essential.

First, when an action or decision is needed. 

One person standing in front of a group doing all the talking isn’t a meeting; it’s a lecture. If the main purpose of the meeting is to send information, that can be accomplished in an email. However, if your goal involves any action items or gathering feedback, it’s worth getting everyone together.

Second, when an email chain gets too long or has too many people involved in the conversation.

Seriously, just stop the email. Both of those are signals that a meeting would be beneficial. The continual back and forth of questions or input is an indication that more clarification is needed. Perhaps, the lack of visual cues or tone of voice in an email are causing confusion. Holding a meeting would provide an opportunity to resolve issues and answer questions more quickly and effectively.

Outside of that, maybe a quick “weigh in” or check up will suffice? Either by phone or email. Let’s touch base and see how we’re doing on that project.  Any concerns? No – Great, talk to you soon! Yes? Okay, let’s make an action plan!

If you’re more of a numbers person, consider this: You’ve got a weekly, hour-long meeting with 4 other team members. To keep things simple, you all make about $50/hr. That weekly meeting costs your company $1,000 a month or $13,000 a year. In project hours, that’s 20 hours a month or 260 hours per year. Make sure your meetings are worth the time and money you invest.

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Let’s Make Meetings More Productive

Once you’ve decided a meeting is the way to go, it’s important to conduct a productive meeting. Here are 4 ways to make the most of your meetings:

Think like a Girl Scout and be prepared.

That means be on time, have a thorough agenda (with meeting goals!), and stick to it. Let your participants be prepared to; send them the agenda in an email ahead of time so they know what will be discussed and how they’ll be best prepared. If they know what to expect, they’ll be more likely to participate thoughtfully, you’ll save time, and avoid building a reputation for yourself as being a time waster.

Engage the group.

Instead of asking a blanket question such as “what do you think?” offer them a few minutes to gather their thoughts and then ask “who wants to contribute first?” instead. If this meeting is a standard get together, as in you meet every other Monday, consider asking someone else to run the meeting. I once worked in an office where each week a new member of the team was tasked with being the meeting leader; it was wonderful. It kept meetings fresh, it made us feel accountable, and it required us to be involved. All components of a successful meeting.

Be flexible.

If you can try to meet somewhere besides the meeting room. Get out from behind the desk. Take a walking meeting, use the cafeteria, sit on a bench outside, anything! A fresh perspective can yield fresh ideas.

Provide Chik-fil-A breakfast!

That’s a joke. Sort of. But it doesn’t hurt to throw a surprise in there every now and again. It can be something as simple as a coffee traveler that’s better than the office’s community coffee pot. This small gesture shows you appreciate and value the time your attendees are setting aside to meet with you.

How about you? Do you have any tips on ensuring a productive meeting? Drop us a note and let us know!