Are your meetings lacking that healthy glow of productivity and vitality? Are you getting the most out of your meeting experience? Have you experienced the following symptoms?

BoredToDeathLoss of time, space, and memory

: “We just sat here for over 2 hours and I’m not sure what was accomplished!”

Lack of sleep: “Now I’m going to have to work late tonight to finish my project!”

Narcolepsy: “I can’t keep my eyes open, this presentation is putting me to sleep!”

Disoriented: “This is a big waste of time. I am so confused and frustrated!”

Paranoia: “We were supposed to start at 2:00. Where is everyone? Am I late?”

If you have experienced any of these meeting-induced symptoms, never fear. You are not alone. You just may have a case of Disoriented Meeting Deficit Disorder, or DMDD. Not to worry, there is a cure!

Let’s take a closer look.

Hypothetically, you just received the following meeting notice:

Department Meeting

2:00 p.m. Monday

It is now 1:00 p.m., Monday afternoon.  With a deadline looming, you work feverishly to get as much work as you can done to accommodate the meeting time. You have no idea what the meeting is about, so you feel ill prepared. You spend a few minutes or so asking around where the meeting will be held. Everyone you talk to is wondering the same.

It is now 1:45 p.m. and you finally receive a notice that the meeting is at the corporate office about 10 minutes away. After scrambling to get to the meeting before 2:00 p.m. you walk into a boardroom only to find about 3 out of 10 associates in the meeting room.  The meeting facilitator, John, calls in to say he will be joining shortly by remote video conference – he hasn’t connected yet.  John says, “No worries, I figured some of you would be late, so I finished up a report I was working on. Now I just need to log in to the video conference.” 

Video conference?  What video conference? You immediately call the secretary in to the board room to ask about the video conference. She looks at you in confusion.  She did not know there was even a meeting. So, you and the secretary scramble to set up the meeting technology.  A few more meeting attendees show up, and at 2:28 p.m., the meeting finally begins with only half of the associates in attendance.

The facilitator begins the meeting with a short greeting and synopsis of the Grammy’s show viewed over the weekend. Others participate in the conversations by giving their reviews as well. The conversation ends about 15 minutes later after debate over performances finally comes to a close. With all the excitement, the facilitator has to take a break to the restroom, and brew some coffee.

It is now 3:00 p.m. and you still do not know what you are there for. The facilitator begins presenting a very large, text-heavy PowerPoint presentation on the video screen in front of you.  The presentation is titled, ironically, “Productivity – Making the Best Use of Time.” You feel as though you are in a bad dream, and your eyes begin to roll into the back of your head as the words are read directly off each and every screen, word for word. Finally, 45 minutes later, the presentation ends.  The facilitator opens the floor for discussion.

Sally and Henry begin heatedly debating a topic that was brought up in the presentation that quickly veered off in another direction.  You jump in to try and help steer the two back on topic and table the debate for offline discussion. However, John interrupts you mid-sentence to give his opinion on the matter. And the debate ensues for another 20 minutes.

Finally, the facilitator decides to conclude the meeting without soliciting any more questions, ignoring further feedback, and dismisses the attendees without any further instruction.

It is now after 4 p.m. and you will have to work late tonight to finish your project.

Have you ever had a similar type of meeting disorder? What would you have done differently?

First we must diagnose the problem. What went wrong in this meeting? Let’s take a look.

  1. Meeting notice was delivered late
  2. Meeting purpose was vague
  3. No location provided in the meeting invitation
  4. No agenda provided
  5. The facilitator was late and unprepared
  6. The facilitator spent several minutes talking about unrelated work topics
  7. The facilitator took a break shortly after arriving to the meeting
  8. Ineffective PowerPoint presentation
  9. Conflict was not handled properly
  10. Meeting was concluded with no direction

Below is your prescription for healthy and productive meetings:

  1. Plan with Purpose - Be Prepared
    1. Should you meet in person, or by conference call?
    2. Are you delivering a message or is brainstorming and decision-making required?
  2. Ahead of the meeting – Prepare participants ahead of time
    1. Identify participants and roles
    2. Prepare an agenda of topics and allocate time limits for discussions
    3. Inform the participants of the meeting date, time, and location in advance
    4. Plan for audio/visual needs
    5. Model the mindset—Set a theme and create leverage for creative thinking (allows participants to develop ideas and suggestions prior to the meeting)
    6. Arrive early to your meeting and have all technical needs set up and in working order before the meeting starts.
  3. During the Meeting – Facilitate with finesse!
    1. Always, refer to the agenda
    2. Set ground rules (punctuality, turn cell phones off, interruptions, etc.)
    3. Introduce topics and clarify roles of participants
    4. Manage conflict objectively, timely, and with respect (discuss unresolved issues offline)
    5. Record observations and ideas (minutes, whiteboards, flipcharts, etc.)
    6. Keep presentations minimal and organized to key topics. Use attention-grabbing methods
    7. Ask questions, solicit feedback,  and engage your audience
    8. Summarize and confirm decisions and assignments verbally, and in writing
  4. Respect for others
    1. Start on time and end on time
    2. Discuss non-related work topics offline
    3. Keep track of time
    4. Keep discussions moving
    5. Do not interrupt
    6. Allow everyone to participate
    7. Maintain confidentiality
    8. Thank attendees for their participation
  5. Follow-up – Develop action plans
    1. After the meeting, reiterate assignments, next steps, and goals
    2. Share meeting minutes
    3. Provide participants with a meeting evaluation form. This feedback will provide a baseline for improvement and help generate ideas for future meetings

You have just been prescribed 5 basic remedies for facilitating more productive, healthy meetings. By following this prescription, you will take preventive measures to avoid the debilitating symptoms of DMDD. If you are already experiencing such symptoms, then follow the 5 remedies above for each meeting and repeat often as needed. You will find yourself on your way to meeting recovery!

Stay healthy and informed!

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