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10 Powerful Communication Skills to Improve Meeting Productivity & Become a Meeting Ninja

Posted on March 8, 2011 by Leslie Dickson

meeting ninja

What if you could take 5½ hours of every team member’s work week and make it more productive – including yours? It’s a topic VoicePro clients mention time and time again. No wonder. 5.6 hours is the amount of time the average worker spends in meetings, according to one research study. And most respondents say that a lot of that time is unproductive.

Want to be a Meeting Ninja? Chopping endless discussions down to size? Protecting productivity?  Using all the right moves to fight boredom, squabbling and wandering minds. Here are 10 tips to help make you a meeting master.

1. Have an agenda.

Yes – Every time. A meeting is a type of presentation, which means it deserves the same preparation. Nothing is less productive than spending 10 minutes deciding the topics of discussion – or, worse yet, defining the agenda on a whiteboard at the start of the session. Make your agenda specific and actionable. Of course, people can add to the agenda, but make sure the structure is in place. And, never revise the agenda from the last meeting for the next one. When you start from scratch, you focus on the key goals.

2. Raise expectations.

Send out the agenda in advance. When you show you’re serious about results, others will be, too. An agenda gets people thinking and pulling together their facts (and opinions). It also helps them arrive at the meeting ready to actively engage.

3. Make pre-meeting assignments, if necessary.

All of us have been ten minutes into a meeting only to discover there’s not enough information to make progress, so we disband and postpone.  Be certain that your subject experts are ready.

4. Put the most important topics first.

Resist the temptation to “warm up” a meeting with less important topics.  Get down to serious business while everyone is at their best. Let the less important topics be shelved if time runs out.

5. Start on time. Don’t reward latecomers.

Ten minutes of small talk waiting for latecomers penalizes people who came on time. Get going at the appointed hour. And don’t recap for latecomers. They’ll soon learn to arrive punctually.

6. Don’t let the discussion wander. And manage the disruptive participants.

It’s so easy for one or two individuals to take a discussion off the rails. Be gentle but quick and firm in bringing people back to the topic at hand. For difficult naysayers, consider acknowledging their point of view, then adding, “Now let’s hear what others have to say.”

7. No phones. No texts. No emails.

This is a problem that’s arrived with the advent of smartphones. You need the full attention of everyone in the room. With rare exception, that should mean the only communication going on is with the people in the room.

8. Manage the number of participants.

Some experts suggest no more than 6; others say 12 is the magic number. Here’s my guideline: invite only the people who truly add to the discussion and decision-making.

9. Send out meeting minutes within 48 hours.

24 hours is even better. The minutes should recap any decisions and list any assignments to be completed, including the responsible person and timeline, if possible. That helps assure progress before the next gathering.

10. Was this meeting really necessary?

Maybe the most productive meeting is the one that doesn’t happen. If you can issue a status report or gather opinions by email, that’s the most effective strategy.

Now practice, practice, practice those meeting moves and, before you know it, you’ll be a master.  Now that you’re on your way to becoming a Meeting Ninja, would you like more ideas on how to make presentations, build collaborative teams and increase your influence in your organization? Get in touch with VoicePro® and ask about our communication coaching programs.

Image by Seth W.

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