'Let's turn meetings from painful drain to productive gain'

By building on the best aspects and reversing the worst, we can make meetings something staff will look forward to instead of a chore, writes Martin Farrell

Meetings do not have to be a waste of time and energy, writes Martin Farrell
Meetings do not have to be a waste of time and energy, writes Martin Farrell

"Oh no, not another one! What's it for? How long? Do I really need to be there? We haven't done anything since the last one."

These are typical responses when I ask what comes to mind when you hear "let's have a meeting". Too many meetings squander enthusiasm and waste energy and time. This global disaster in which we all play our part is like hot air going through the roof. We have heat sensors for the roof – and we also have in-built sensors that tell us when meetings energy is lost.

But we've become so used to the pain that we've stopped noticing. We think that's just how it is and have become cynical. This is not good for our sector, nor for those whom we seek to serve. It does not have to be like this. Let's transform every meeting from painful drain to productive gain. Like this...

At your next meeting, notice what works and what doesn't. Make a decision to build on the best. Maybe you will notice small things such as:

- Someone greets you at the door, offers you a drink and smiles. Your spirits lift and you feel engaged as you enter the room.

- Part way through the meeting, someone says "shall we have a five-minute leg stretch?" Everyone comes back refreshed and ready to think again.

- In a board meeting, the chair summarises agreements before moving to the next item.

And decide to reverse the worst, too:

- At your regular team meeting, some people arrive late (as always). Talk to them and agree that next time you will all arrive five minutes before the meeting (yes, early). Then do it.

- The room is messy, with debris from the previous meeting – take a deep breath, invest five minutes in clearing up.

- Eight of you are huddled at one end of a big table. Consider moving, so you can sit closer and really see each other.

Build on the best, reverse the worst. Soon you'll be making your meetings magic – and will be hearing: "You're going to a meeting? Wow, can I come too?"

Martin Farrell is an international facilitator and crisis coach at Get2thepoint.org

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