This week’s top tip from Britain’s Sales Trainer of the YearMarch 5th 2013

Every Tuesday, sales expert Andy Bounds shares his top tips to improve your sales and communications. This week’s is…

Bored meetings

Seven simple ways to stop tedious meetings ruining your week

I have only two problems with meetings:

1. Finding time to host all my fascinating ones; and
2. Having to attend everyone else’s rubbish ones

And it seems I’m not alone. Research by Epson found that inefficient meetings cost the UK economy £26billion per year. Apparently, we waste an average of nearly three hours every week because of inefficiencies in meetings. What a criminal waste of an accountant’s chargeable time.

Here are seven ways to transform your meetings – both internal and with clients – so you get more done, more quickly, and with minimal waste.

#1 It’s what you cause, not what you cover

A meeting is supposed to cause something. That’s the point of it.

So, don’t start by thinking what your agenda should be. Instead, focus first on what you want to happen after it (an action, greater alignment, etc). Then, work backwards to decide what the agenda should cover, who should attend and the time you need.

#2 Think “pit stop”, not “sandwich break”

Meetings should be like pit stops: fast, efficient and everyone having a reason for being there. They should speed things up.

However, most – especially internal ones – are like compulsory sandwich breaks: stodgy, bloating, and containing ingredients you hate. They slow you down.

Change your “sandwich break meetings” to pit stops. Or stop having them.

#3 Have fewer attendees

When two people meet, they only need one agreement: A must agree with B. When four people meet, they need six agreements – AB, AC, AD, BC, BD and CD. When eight people meet, it’s 28 agreements (don’t worry – I won’t list them).

So, invite fewer people. And definitely don’t invite people who can’t contribute/don’t care.

If you don’t limit attendees, you’re deciding by committee. And that just never works.

#4 Have fewer topics

Strip out every agenda item you could progress outside the meeting – things you could do on your own, in a 121, by email etc. This might result in your meetings becoming very short; but, hey, who’s complaining?

#5 Be interesting

If you think your meetings might be boring, they are.

You know the meetings that always drag on; so shake things up. Change something – the venue, your agenda, the chairperson, who sits where… anything.

After all, making a mistake once isn’t a mistake; it’s learning. But make the same mistake more than once, and it becomes a mistake. Keep making it, and it’s just odd.

#6 Shorten them

Ten colleagues meeting for thirty minutes doesn’t take thirty minutes. It absorbs five man-hours of time. Was the agenda really worth that investment of chargeable time?

Allocate the time you need. If you can discuss everything in 7 minutes, diarise your meeting for 7 minutes. Don’t assume it’s going to last 30 or 60 minutes, because that fits neatly in your Outlook diary.

Even better, say it will last ‘a maximum’ of a time. Let’s face it, if you say it’ll last 20 minutes, it will. But ‘a maximum of 20 minutes’ means people expect it to be less, so, it often is.

#7 Don’t have ‘Update Meetings’

Update meetings take too long, achieve too little and are deathly dull.

So make them shorter, and/or less often. Even better, unless it will cause big problems, just stop having them.

And always remember…

The personalities and politics involved with meetings mean you can’t always do all seven of these. But you can always do more than none. Everyone – especially you – will be glad you did.

Andy is an international best-selling author. Dragons Den’s James Caan describes his latest book The Snowball Effect (Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable) as: “A toolbox of powerful techniques that will help anyone communicate more powerfully, effectively and confidently than ever before.”

His book is available on Amazon, with a very special offer of insights from 14 top thought leaders if you buy it today! Click here to buy The Snowball Effect

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Andy Bounds

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