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April 2018

5 steps to end waste-of-time meetings

Meetings can sometimes feel like a necessary evil. If not facilitated well, they can be time-consuming and non-productive.

On an episode of the ABA Section of Litigation’s Sound Advice series, “Making Meetings Matter,” Nan Joesten, principal consultant for professional development firm Rapid Evolution LLC in San Francisco, provides tips for turning meetings into one of your most important resources.

“Most lawyers have not been trained as to how to run or contribute to a great meeting but it’s not difficult to do and small changes can make a big difference,” Joesten says.

Here are 5 of Joesten’s best words of wisdom:

1.   Communicate the meeting objective and share the agenda with attendees in advance. “As the meeting leader, you cannot run a successful meeting if you don’t articulate the reason for people to be there,” Joesten says. “Let attendees see that you are planning a focused and productive meeting as evidenced by the agenda.” Send out your agenda in plenty of time for people to review it, to propose additional items to include and to see where they will be expected to contribute to the discussion. Remember: it’s your role to bring out the best in your attendees and to help facilitate the effectiveness of the group.

2.   Start and end your meeting on time. It sounds obvious, but this is the meeting no-no committed most often.  

3.   Capture the action items during the meeting. “You cannot hold people accountable for their commitments and make sure things are proceeding on track if you don’t know who is going to be doing what and by when,” Joesten warns. For a complex project, such as discovery against multiple parties or preparing for trial, consider tracking various tasks on a chart to include progress, next steps, a due date and the names of the individuals responsible for these action items.

4.   Solicit feedback. Joesten suggests conducting a “start, stop and continue” every now and then to make your meetings more productive. By taking these steps, she says, “Your team will appreciate that you value their time by wanting to improve your meetings.”

5.   Circulate notes and next steps, as appropriate. If you are part of a group that meets regularly, take brief minutes or bullet points to circulate to those who could not attend. “This keeps people updated and it’s also a great way to quickly engage the interest of new members in what the committee is doing, who is involved and where they might fit in,” Joesten says.

6.    Think about why you really need to have a meeting. If your meetings have grown stale, consider another way to solicit input. “Don’t waste time by bringing people together in a room or over the phone only to have it equal to a false alarm,” Joesten says.

To hear more of Joesten’s good advice,listen to the full podcast.

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