Raise your hand if you are reading this blog post while also doing another task. Raise both hands if that other task is “participating” in a meeting, either in-person or virtually.
If you raised both hands, you are exactly the person that I want to reach. But put your hands down first, because the truth is, there is no such thing as multitasking. Really, science says so, as do many authors. And even if you are thinking “but I can make a cup of coffee while I schedule my car’s oil change”, the kind of multitasking that I want to address here is what goes on in meetings, presentation and conferences.
As a business professional who has conducted thousands of meetings and attended thousands upon thousands more, I am still surprised by the amount of multitasking that takes place in the meeting room.
When a business leader is standing in front of the room and looking, not at engaged, inquiring faces, but instead at heads bent over open laptops and cell phones in front of people, it’s disheartening. Because that meeting time and topic are important—or it wouldn’t have been scheduled, and you wouldn’t have been invited. And there is work to be done.
So, I offer you these 5 ways to make your meetings more productive:
- Set Clear Objectives – make sure everyone knows the “why” of the meeting, “what” is to be accomplished, why they are there, and “who” will have responsibilities during and after the meeting. If this is clear, attendees will focus more on their participation because they will understand their role.
- Full Attention – as a presenter, make sure to fully engage attendees to capture their full attention. Walk around the room, ask direct questions, call people by name, whatever is needed to keep the room’s focus on you and the task at hand. As an attendee, be ready, you never know when a question is coming your way.
- Focus – it’s an important concept for presenters and attendees alike. Hone your message to be the most specific to address the meeting objective as above. People will appreciate that their time is not being wasted, and that a one hour’s worth of a discussion or meeting won’t drag on for three. So, attendees will know that there will be time to address other issues of concern to them later in the day.
- Energy – again, “right-sizing” the content means a focused approach, so everyone should have more energy to approach the goal. Cell phones are ubiquitous in all facets of business life, but the constant checking of both important and less important emails drains your mental energy, and redirects it to other things outside of the meeting objective. Bring good, focused energy to a meeting and you will see that it is contagious.
- Engaged – simply stated, the ideal rule for most meetings, to thwart multitasking by attendees should be “laptops closed, cell phones on silent, and preferably not in sight”. Spending some time reinforcing this policy will lead to a dramatic increase in engagement from attendees, which in turn will drive better outcomes.
For more information and perspectives on improving process and productivity, and eliminating mental distractions, a book worth reading is The One Thing. And with all the time saved by focusing on one thing at a time, take a minute to drop me a line to let me know how this blog list improves your meetings.