Meetings are part and parcel of legal life. But how often do we really have productive meetings as opposed to, quite simply, huge time wasters? Do digital alternatives to the face-to-face meeting offer a solution?
It’s likely that you’ve been to a meeting recently. Probably not just one, but several. It’s also likely that you’re not entirely sure why you went, can’t quite remember what was said and have no real idea what, if anything, was achieved.
The general consensus seems to be that many meetings are a waste of time, so how do we make meetings more productive? Is there a better alternative to meeting face to face?
Face-to-face meetings can be invaluable to productivity, essential in forging relationships and critical for debate and decision-making. That said, there are many tools available to the modern practitioner to help facilitate more efficient, productive meetings.
Skype offers a reasonable alternative in many circumstances, as does tele- or video-conferencing. Could a one-on-one conversation, in person or by telephone, circumvent the need for a larger gathering? Perhaps information could be disseminated and opinions gleaned by email or internal social-networking tools.
The key to effective and productive meetings is necessity.
- Is the meeting necessary?
- Is your attendance necessary?
- Is the content necessary?
If the answer to any of these questions is not a resounding “yes”, then you may wish to explore the alternatives.
If your meetings are proving less than productive, consider structuring them with the following in mind:
- For a meeting to be worthwhile, give attendees sufficient notice, including definite start and end times. Stick to these times in order to focus minds and maximise efficacy.
- Allow attendees enough time for proper and thorough preparation, including the receipt and consideration of documents and relevant materials. Everyone will then be up to speed and able to make valuable and timely contributions to the discussion.
- Make sure that every meeting has a defined purpose or goal and attendees know what it is.
- Set the agenda and communicate it to attendees for consideration well in advance. To avoid diversions during the meeting, stick to the agenda at all costs.
- Ensure all relevant decision makers can attend and limit numbers to those whose contribution is absolutely crucial. Too many cooks can spoil a meeting.
- Appoint a Chair to make a brief introduction, facilitate orderly and productive debate, and bring the meeting to a satisfactory conclusion.
- Minutes of the meeting should be recorded and relayed to all participants and other interested parties as soon as possible.
How an individual or a firm approaches meetings says a great deal about their/its ethos and efficiency. Today may be the ideal time to examine your meeting strategy.