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Meetings Can Lower IQs: Mitigate the Risk

Every professional has experience in attending meetings that offered little to no return on investment (ROI) for their valuable time. I have often wondered if some of the meetings I have attended in the past have actually lowered my IQ. A recent study by the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has actually shown that meetings can lower the IQ of meeting attendees. The compelling survey results have inspired me to put together a list of meeting best practices. I am hoping that others will weigh in with their thoughts and that we can collaborate to put together a useful reference tool, and if nothing else, maybe somthing to look at for inspiration before you call your next meeting

In terms of meeting best practices I would offer the following:

  1. Have an Agenda – an unstructured meeting creates an inherent barrier to productivity
  2. Invite only those who need to attend- make sure that you have a reason for inviting each meeting attendee
  3. Communicate to those you are inviting why they are invited- attendees need to have an incentive to listen and engage in the meeting
  4. Control you meeting- do not let your meeting get too far off topic or let an attendee take over your meeting
  5. Demand attention- if the meeting is an in-person gathering then do not allow any type of smart phones, iPads, etc. If you someone sneaks one in then take it or remove them from the meeting. If it is a remote meeting and you are sharing a presentation see if you can use a tool that will monitor if they are viewing your screen (applications such as GoToMeeting offer this functionality.)
  6. Create specific action items from the meeting- define specific action items that result from the meeting. This clearly communicates the output from the meeting and why you called the meeting
  7. Manage your meeting reputation- following the best practices above your colleagues will know that when you call a meeting you mean business and it will be a productive use of their time. They may even enjoy your meeting and they will make your meetings more productive. You should also elicit feedback from your meetings to show that you care about the attendees’ time and want to improve as a meeting facilitator.

This is not a short list, but think back to an unproductive meeting you have attended in the past, if the meeting leader had just adhered to a few of the aforementioned best practices how much more productive would that meeting have been for you?

I look forward to input from the community so we can create a useful tool to mitigate the risk of unproductive meetings and the lowering the IQs of meeting attendees.

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Edward Long
Title: Vice President
Company: Friedkin Company, Inc
(Vice President, Friedkin Company, Inc) |

How about start the meeting on time and end it on time. Meeting organizers should be respectors of others time and the key way to show that is to begin and end on time. If it looks like the meeting will spill over then the organizer should determine if everyone can stay over (assuming the meeting room is not booked) or that another meeting will be scheduled to continue the discussion.

Bobby Bluford
Title: VP, Finance
Company: Printroom, Inc.
(VP, Finance, Printroom, Inc.) |

I completely agree, Edward. This also makes people more likely to come to a meeting and be engaged, trusting that they will have to concentrate and focus for a certain length of time. Whether we want to admit it or not, outside of the 25% or so of the participants that have a direct impact and dominate the conversations in meetings, the rest of the attendees are little more than flies on the wall. If they know they'll be done in, say, an hour, they're more likely to participate.

Julie Lam
Title: Controller
Company: Port of Oakland
(Controller, Port of Oakland) |

100% agree with Edward. Many times have I been the victum of longer than expected meetings that ruin your schedule for the rest of the day. Not to mention the trickle down effect to others who are waiting on you to attend the next meeting. Our department has started an implied 50 minute meeting rule. Meetings start on time, if you are late you have to sing. If you schedule an hour, we expect at the 50 minute mark to be wrapping up the meeting (which sometimes takes a whole 10 minutes) or start talking about when the best time is to schedule a follow up meeting if we are not done. Sometimes there is even a time keeper. It keeps people on subject and the bonus: if you can end on the 50 minute mark everyone has an extra 10 minutes meeting. You can even be a couple minutes early for the next meeting. It's working very well for us.

Topic Expert
Randy Miller
Title: Partner
Company: CFO Edge
(Partner, CFO Edge) |

I would add, along the lines of what Julie wrote, set a time limit for a meeting. Most issues should be wrapped into meetings of no longer than 1 hour - after that interest and productivity drops off as people start to wonder what they are missing or worry about other work.

Sean Quinn
Title: CFO/COO
Company: Workplace Resource
(CFO/COO, Workplace Resource) |

Great ideas and all help people focus. I would add that you should always have an agenda for a meeting which goes out ahead of time so people are prepared. I would also insist on having an agenda for any meeting you are asked to attend.........time is to valuable to waste.

(CEO & COO) |

The year-end and 2013 planning meetings are in full force so it is time to once again take a look at and review best practices in holding and attending meetings. This time of year being mindful to not hold meeting in front of or behind social Holiday office activity may bode well for the productivity of a meeting.