Business

5 ways to hate meetings a little bit less

What's the best part of your workday? We don't know what your answer was to that question, but we're willing to bet it wasn't "meetings." If you're feeling like all of those work huddles are a waste of time, we have five ideas on making them more productive, less time-consuming and more beneficial to you.

1. Set - or demand - an agenda. If you're the organizer of a meeting, send out an agenda and let attendees know what they need to do to prepare and what they should bring, says Liz Hocker, a senior associate at the professional service firm VCFO in Austin and an expert in human resources and staffing.

If you're not the organizer of the meeting and no agenda has been sent, contact the organizer and ask for one, Hocker says. Also ask whether you're expected to present about anything on the agenda.

When you start setting the expectations for efficient meetings, whether you're the organizer or an attendee, those co-workers who love to schedule meetings for everything are going to think a little more before they call everyone together.

"The end result would be fewer meetings - hopefully," Hocker says.

2. Cut to the chase. "It's important to be on time and be respectful of everybody else's time," Hocker says. "Just because the meeting is scheduled to last for one hour, it doesn't mean you spend 15 minutes talking about the subject and 45 minutes talking about what you did last weekend."

If you can move through the agenda quickly and efficiently, go ahead and cut the meeting short.

Tired of tangents taking over meetings? "If a topic comes up that is not part of that agenda, and it only affects one or two people in that meeting, offer to take that topic and discuss it after the meeting," Hocker says.

3. Set follow-ups. If no one takes any actions after a meeting, there was no point in having it, Hocker says. "There should always be follow-up items from meetings," she says.

How many meetings have you attended where you talk about something that would be really great to do ... and then nothing ever happens? When you're in a meeting and the group identifies something that needs to be done, make sure it's established who's taking care of it and what the deadline is, Hocker says.

Take care of your own follow-up assignments as soon as you can after the meeting before other tasks intrude.

4. Make a name for yourself. Meetings can bring you into contact with others in your company or your field, and making a good impression is valuable. And you don't want to be remembered as the guy who doodled or played on his BlackBerry the whole time, says Frances Cole Jones, author of "The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today's Business World," released in September.

One easy way to shine is to pay attention and listen more than you talk, Hocker says.

This will help you get clear on what your clients and colleagues need and where they're coming from.

Even if you don't have much to do at the meeting, make the most of what you are doing, even if it's just introducing yourself. "You need to think of your name as a presentation," Jones says. Give it all the emphasis and confidence of "Bond. James Bond."

5. Make an ally. It's even more valuable to make a good impression if you're going to a meeting with your boss. Beforehand, ask your boss how you can be most helpful during the meeting, Jones says. Does she want you to focus on her and what she's saying, or would she prefer that you observe others at the meeting so that you can fill her in later about what points met with enthusiasm or confusion?

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