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The 21 cardinal sins of meetings – and how to avoid them

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Deciding to “have a meeting” is very often an excuse for putting off taking a decision. Ask yourself – do you need to be meeting all the time? How can we be more productive for our business?

Here are my top 21 unforgivably inefficient meeting habits. Next time you consider booking that boardroom, think about whether you really need to or if a well planned email or report may do the job just as well!

1. Starting late – No one likes to be late for anything but run late to a meeting and you will just add more time to your “out of office” which means less time actually “doing” work.

2. Running over the scheduled time – Likewise, a dangerous place to be as you may miss other more important deadlines back at base.

3. Repeating early information for latecomers – If someone joins in late suggest that they read actions points or recap on earlier information during a break.

4. Waiting for latecomers before starting – Try and start on time and update the latecomers if you can.

5. Holding it in the wrong location – Make sure it’s easy to find and convenient to get too. If you change the location make sure everybody has noticed! 

6. Inviting the wrong attendees – Careful here! Rule out who does and doesn’t necessarily need to be there.

7. Not having a clear agenda – Set a clear agenda from the start, it will prove much more effective.

8. Ignoring the agenda – It is easy to go off on tangents, keep checking back to stay on track or you will run overtime.

9. Too many attendees (spoil the meeting…) – Cut out the extra weight and only involve those who absolutely need to be there.

10. No decisions by the end of the meeting – I always like to recap on the key actions and outcomes and who is responsible for delivering them before the end of the meeting.

11. No accountability taken for any of the issues raised – This is why a good agenda, circulated in advance is vital. If it’s important, somebody needs to be able to report on the issue and explain how it has been dealt with so far.

12. No follow-up actions assigned or worse, decided upon – Make sure that as a result of the meeting steps to achieve future progress have been agreed and assigned.

13. Recurring meetings just because they always have – When work flow varies from project to project, wait until there is a more important reason to meet again.

14. Doodling, checking emails and other irrelevant time-wasting – It’s hard to not!

15. Encourage everybody to ‘stay in the room’ – Keep everyone focused on the agenda.

16. Attendees not listening – Again, talk louder! Get everyone to participate.

17. Attendees distracted by refreshments – Save these for the room next door so people need to get up and get a break.

18. Last minute technology problems caused by poor preparation – Check what you require the day before the event.

19. Last minute cancellation and rescheduling – This just means nobody does anything until the next meeting!

20. Last minute meetings (in a non-emergency situation) – Are these really necessary?

21. No real need for a meeting at all – Keep in touch with an email or a quick conference call.

Andrea Osborne is the director of Cushion The Impact.

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