Meetings can be important and useful, or they can be a waste of time. How many of us have sat in a meeting and thought, "Is this meeting ever going to start?" or worse, "Is this meeting ever going to end?"
The typical American professional attends more than 60 meetings per month, and about half of that time is wasted.
Seventy-three percent of professionals do unrelated work during meetings – perhaps because they are not truly needed in them. (MCI white paper Meetings in America: A study of trends, costs and attitudes toward business travel, teleconferencing, and their impact on productivity (Greenwich, CT: INFOCOMM, 1998.)
There are a lot of elements that go into building an effective meeting. When working with youth programs, it’s important to train young people to run meetings effectively.
But when adults model bad meeting behavior, it trickles down to the young people in the room. If we are to model effective, productive and good meetings to young people, there needs to be a change in the way we conduct meetings. Here are some ideas and ways of making meetings more productive:
Interrupt meetings regularly. At a minimum, there should be a five-minute break every hour. But if you really want to change it up, try a 2 minute stand up break every half an hour. This will keep the meeting engaging and maybe even fun.
Try removing chairs or the table. Having people stand during the meeting will keep them engaged in the conversation and inspire creativity. You might not have people stand the whole meeting but when it is needed have them stand for a while to get ideas flowing.
Start with a positive. For example: Name one thing you've accomplished since the last meeting that you are proud of. Name a person who has helped you since the last meeting. Mention one thing you’re looking forward to in the coming week/month.
Keep time but be creative with it. Try starting the meeting on a minute verses the hour or half hour. For example, start at 5:08 or 5:05. This can provide a cushion for those who may be late and it is a new way to remember what time it starts.
Changing things up takes practice and a willingness to try something new. Adults can easily get into a set meeting routine, which often times will be replicated by the youth who attend them.
Yes, adding these things to a meeting will take a little time out of the schedule, but I think we all would agree the problem with bad meetings is not how much time we spend in them – it’s the quality of our time. It’s whether we spend the time being energized, creative and having fun – or whether we spend it wishing we could be back at our desks doing some real work.
How can you make meetings more meaningful and productive when youth are in the same room? How would you involve the youth to make the meetings more meaningful to them? As an adult, how do you model productive meetings to young people?
-- Brian McNeill, Extension educator
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