Whether with clients, partners or your own team, meetings can feel like a necessary evil. Here’s how to make them more effective–and less of a drag.

Death by Meeting is the title of a great book by Patrick Lencioni. It is also an oft-heard expression that encapsulates so much of the negative commentary on ineffective bureaucracy.

Many people have meetings as a part of their regular jobs. And many people hate them.

I came across some great statistics from the folks at SalesCrunch.com in their infographicDon’t Suck at Meetings. (They’ve also posted some funny anecdotes atDontSuckAtMeetings.com.)

A couple of the highlights include:

  • Engagement is 20% higher when the guests do most of the talking, rather than the presenter.
  • 15-minute meetings are 50% more successful than 45-plus-minute meetings
  • The longer the slide deck, the less likely it will be read when it is forwarded after the meeting. (If your deck is 40 or more slides, forget getting it read.)
  • Attendees may promise to forward the materials, but only do it 1 out of 7 times!

But the reality is that you probably can’t kill all meetings. So here’s how to make the meetings you lead and attend more effective.

1. Think Short

If you want engagement and productivity, then focus on a tight agenda with clear outcomes. Simplicity is not just the hallmark of elegance; it is also critical for effectiveness.

2. Go Light on Handouts

What I often do is provide a list of additional materials that can be sent to support any key ideas in the presentation and offer to send those materials separately. (You can also have them prepared and offer them upon request to those people who find that portion of the presentation valuable.)

3. Collaborate

If you want engagement, you need to orchestrate it. Include “engagement points” in the meeting agenda. Build questions and discussions right into the agenda.

4. Use the Ensemble Cast

If your company is presenting, then you need multiple presenters on your team for a larger meeting. If you have invited people to a meeting, then there needs to be a role for everyone in attendance.

That role may be in answering a question, or providing commentary on a point or a process explanation. The point is that meetings are moments of engagement. There shouldn’t be an audience at a meeting, just participants.

5. Follow Up

Don’t promise to follow up if you’re not going to do so–and quickly. Almost all of the engagement you will ever get will happen within the first 24 hours. That’s right: “We’ll get back to you next week” just means you are providing unnecessary review time that the attendees will not use.

Get on it. Within one day of the meeting, it’s time to get back in touch with the attendees.

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