The Direct Network

5 Ways to Make Meetings Work

Posted by Lori Reese on Oct 19, 2017 5:30:00 AM
Topics: professional development, Higher Ed, K-12

Meetings, meetings, meetings: ‘Tis the season in the land of academia for get-togethers, end-of-term finalizations, and endless confabs about all that stuff you must resolve before faculty are buried in prep for finals.

5 Ways to Make Meetings WorkWe’ve combed the internet for the best advice on how to keep your meetings short, sharp and powerful.

Here are the top five suggestions

1. Send out an agenda with five bullet points — no more, no less

Yes, that means it’s necessary to edit the list of tasks you want to accomplish down to priorities — but isn’t that what meetings are for? If you have fewer than five things on your agenda, then there’s little reason to meet. If you have more than that, you’re likely to veer off onto tangents that don’t pertain to the purpose. 

2. Chop five minutes off each meeting for every 30 minutes scheduled

That is, if you think you need to meet for an hour, plan to stop, really stop, at the 50-minute mark. If you’ve scheduled the meeting for 30 minutes, don’t go over 25. Cutting your time will keep you on topic and keep attendees awake

3. Change location and encourage movement

In this case, advice for students is good advice for team managers, too: research shows students retain more material if they change study locales frequently. It also helps to stand up and walk now and then. I used to encourage my ADHD students to pace while memorizing flash cards with excellent results. These days, you can assume all your direct reports are a little scattered, especially as end-of-term fatigue sets in. Take your team out to lunch or host a meeting in the park. Make the gathering memorable and they’re more likely to keep critical points in mind down the road

4. State your purpose

That may sound obvious, but how many meetings have you attended that seemed to run off in unproductive directions? Make sure everyone knows that you have a single clear intention. That way everyone will know when the goal is met. Attendees who leave with a sense of accomplishment are happier and more productive

5. Have a discussion leader

Yes, academia prides itself on rich diversity, innovation and creativity — even in administrative wings. Yes, an autocratic approach can seem like an enemy to the above. But it will be possible to hear a greater multiplicity of views if one person has the authority to change subjects, ask quiet participants to speak up, and, yes, occasionally silence an over-long talker

This list is by no means exhaustive — online advice on meeting hacks is plentiful. However, if you stick to at least a few of the above guidelines, you’re guaranteed to energize your get-togethers.Subscribe to Direct Network

About Lori Reese

Lori Reese has more than 15 years’ experience teaching in college and K-12 classrooms. She studied philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, earned an MA in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University and an MFA from University of North Carolina - Greensboro. At UNCG she won the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award and received a Fulbright to conduct research for a novel in Sri Lanka. She has taught undergraduate creative writing, composition and literature as well as seminars for the Lloyd International International Honors Program. She worked in private K-12 education for two years as an English teacher and Academic Dean.

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