How to make meetings better

It’s up to you to make meetings more effective. Here are four ideas.

09/19/2012


“That meeting was a colossal waste of time!” 

We’ve all felt that way and complained about the occasional meeting, conference, or training session that was worthless. We probably went on and on about it to a significant other or to a peer at work, blowing off steam, and then dug in and went back to work to get some real work done, frustrated with the knowledge that we’d be working later as a result of wasting that time.

Is there an alternative? There is, but it is up to you to make it happen. How? 

Consider making this your mantra: Make everything you touch a little better for your having been involved. In other words, don’t let that type of meeting happen—do something about it. That’s a tough challenge, seemingly impossible in some cases, but here are some ideas on how you may be able to accomplish this, and in the process, lower your frustration and improve any organization to which you belong. 

Scenario 1: You’re suffering through a meeting that has no purpose.

Ask, “What is the goal of this meeting?” It can be a gentle reminder that the meeting may be off track. Pointing this out can help bring some leadership to the discussion. 

Scenario 2: You’re invited to a future meeting that you think will be a waste of time.

Ask the person requesting the meeting: “As a result of gathering us together, what is your ideal outcome of this meeting?” This enables you to proactively work with that person to help guide the meeting and help him make it clear to participants ahead of time what is expected. If the meeting requester stumbles on that question and can’t clearly articulate an answer, you can be a sounding board for him/her. You might also be able to help that person focus if he/she has not thought the meeting through ahead of time. Sometimes people call a meeting to check it off the list or to please someone else—without thinking through what outcome is really desired. 

Scenario 3: You’re at a conference.

If it’s really bad, leave. If it’s adequate but you’re bored, force yourself to list the top two or three things you can take away from the conference. If you can’t come up with anything and the format allows asking questions, ask ones that will help you accomplish your goal.

Scenario 4: You’re attending a training session.

If the real-world applicability of a training session is in doubt, ask the instructor for clarification. Clearly there are many different types of training situations, but don’t hesitate to ask questions that will help make the training relevant to you. You’re there for a reason; figure out what that reason is and make sure the training accomplishes it. 

Quantify your time and the time of those around you. Use whatever figure is appropriate, but look at the time spent in terms of real money. For example, an engineer with average work experience of three years may average $75,000 in salary plus $15,000 in benefits annually. That’s $45/hour times the number of people you have in the meeting; for five people, that’s $225/hour that’s being wasted, not including travel if that was required.

Do your part—it’s up to you to make the situation better by being involved. Don’t wait for someone else to make it make sense; don’t passively let it happen and complain about it later. Practicing these tips will make you an invaluable member of any team, any time. It’s up to you! 

 


John Suzukida was Trane’s senior VP of global marketing and strategy prior to founding Lanex Consulting in 2002, which focuses on energy efficiency, product-to-solutions transitions, and strategy. He has facilitated meetings for the West Coast Zero Net Energy Coordinating Council, Daikin, Danfoss, and the National Conference on Building Commissioning, and has written articles for industry publications. He is a presenter at the 2012 Career Smart Engineers Conference.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.