In the name of successful corporate communications, I strive to provide the best tips for how to effectively communicate. Holding internal office meetings is not among the strategies that I recommend. In fact, monotonous meetings are one of my pet peeves. Meetings almost always, are a waste of valuable productive time.
Years ago, I worked for an employer that held meetings followed by more meetings. Rarely was anything accomplished. Each week, one of the managers used to inconvenience his colleagues while he went on a long diatribe about how much his staff accomplished during the previous week. He used the time to toot his own horn for nearly 20 minutes while others suffered through the agony. As a result, the staff, including myself, came to dread meetings. This example demonstrates a complete failure in attempting to communicate effectively. It’s one that we can all learn from and become better communicators, as a result.
Here’s some suggestions to avoid meeting burnout:
1) Keep meetings on point. Don’t stray from the reason you called the meeting! Don’t allow a participant to hold the meeting hostage by going off on a tangent. Look to old cartoons and know when to get the cane in order to pull them off stage.
2) Keep meetings short. I have one rule of thumb—f a meeting lasts more than 30 minutes, it is too long. If you can’t say everything in a half hour, put it in a memo or e-mail. Eyes will tend to glaze over after 15 minutes. I remember a director who kept meetings to just 5 or 10 minutes. His staff loved him for it. His speech was always short and to the point and he avoided telling unnecessary stories or engaging in unrelated spectacles of self-aggrandizement.
3) Make meetings interesting. Add some quick visuals. I don’t, however, recommend creating PowerPoint shows where the speaker is just repeating what is on the slide. Limit the presentation to 10 or fewer slides and avoid creating slides with more than 10-12 words.
4) Offer food or treats. In my opinion, people stay awake and tend to pay more attention when food is offered. Sugar and coffee help keep people perky.
5) Don’t hold meetings to schedule other meetings. One of my former employers was known for holding meetings just to schedule more meetings. Only a government agency could get away with this.
6) Create a newsletter-either online or print to get the word out. Use this in place of a lengthy meeting. Or it can be a one-page e-blast that touches on the main points.
7) Have the guts to pull the plug on someone who has become a preacher from their soap box! Save your colleagues and yourself from these self-serving tirades by setting a stopwatch for the comment period. Limit comments to no more than 1 minute per person.
8) Avoid holding meetings for bogus “best practice” requirements. Often companies do this to give employees the false sense that the are actually being included in the decision-making process. In reality, most decisions will continue to be made by the top echelon. Have the guts to eliminate boring staff meetings as part of the company’s best practices.
OPTIONS FOR THE NON-MEETING
- In place of a meeting, institute smaller 5-person group encounters or team get-togethers. These smaller groups keep people focused and on topic and they generally elicit more participation from individuals.
- In place of a meeting, record snippets of touch points and send these out as a weekly voicemail newsletter. My son’s school does this and it is quite effective. We actually look forward to these recorded messages. But be sure to send it out regularly on a certain day of the week.
- In place of a traditional meeting, surprise your audience. Try playing dance music as everyone enters the room. Or try decorating the room with a few streamers and balloons. Or bring a dynamic guest speaker. You might just add a new excitement to what’s ahead on the agenda. If you do hold a “meeting” or event, be sure to make it lively. Keep people engaged in the meeting. The element of “surprise” goes a long way towards accomplishing this.
- In place of a meeting, try recording a short video and post on company’s intranet. Such a video may even be just s screen recording the flipping of slides from a PowerPoint show with some background narration. There are many video programs which record the action that appears on your computer screen, including mouse-overs, page flips and cascading windows.
- In place of a meeting, create a web page of important points that you would normally discuss. This can be a short teaser page that links back to a more detailed content on additional webpages.
- In place of a meeting, send out snippets in an email. Try to limit it to one snippet or point per e-mail. For instance, I like to design colorful JPEG banner ads that I embedded in the body of my e-mails.
Don’t give up on meetings entirely. Just get rid of the meeting dull drums. Keep it short, simple and sweet. This is the time to inform effectively without belaboring what needs to be said.
Go ahead. Save the company time and money. Long, drawn-out staff meetings cost the company in terms of lost productivity and reduced employee morale.
If your company needs an innovative newsletter, e-publication, meeting presentation or advice on communicating, please contact HWDS at firstname.lastname@example.org. We make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit westdesign.com.
Harlan West is the author of successfulcorporatecommunications.com and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundreds of publications for both print and online purposes.