Too Many Meetings? It’s Not Just You

By: Jerry W. Henry, Partner

It’s not just you. There really has been an increase in the number of meetings in which we’re asked to participate.

A research report conducted during the past year explores the various meetings in which company employees are involved and the various ways in which they participate. In this particular study, the average number of meetings ranged from 8 to 17 each week (depending upon the level of the employee’s position – executives average 17 meetings per week)!  As nonprofit volunteers, I think we can agree that the same increase in meeting participation is true for our organizations as well.

More and more as the need for meetings increases, it seems that we’re using telephone conference calls to facilitate committee work for very busy people.  Years ago when telephone handsets allowed us to “conference in” one or two other people, the calls went relatively smoothly. But more frequently than not, nowadays 6 or more people are often joining in these conference calls.

Tips To Effectively Manage Too Many Meetings:

  1. Ensure that an agenda is sent before the call. This agenda should note the call-in number or other calling instructions, a list of who is anticipated to be on the call, and the beginning time and the anticipated ending time.
  2. The convener or person in charge of the meeting should call in a few minutes early in order to greet callers and to ensure that the call begins on time. Encourage participants to begin calling in 1-2 minutes before the scheduled start time in order to respect everyone’s time.
  3. At the beginning of the call, the convener or another appointed person should “call the roll” to determine who is on line.
  4. If someone calls in after the meeting has begun, don’t stop the meeting to review everything that has been discussed to that point. That is disrespectful to those who were on time and it also rewards tardiness! (I recognize that things occur which cause each of us to run late for calls and meetings, but set a standard for promptness and for respecting volunteers’ time on meeting calls.) Appoint someone to call the tardy person and catch them up on anything that was missed.
  5. Consider setting other ground rules for your conference calls, such as:
    • Mute your phone when you are not speaking if you are in a setting where there is background noise.
    • Identify yourself when speaking to help others recognize your voice.
    • Turn off call-waiting.
    • Pay attention – avoid “multi-tasking” during the all such as sending emails, surfing the internet, etc.
  6. Five minutes before the agreed-upon end time, warn everyone that you’re about to finish the call. If the group wishes to continue for additional time, let that decision emerge from consensus – otherwise, end the call on time.
  7. Maintain a list of next steps or action items as the call goes on, and review specific actions during the last minute or two of the call. Then send around an email with the next steps/action items afterward.

These are just a few points I think would make conference calls move along more smoothly. I could think of more, but I need to dial-in for a call!

I’ll talk to you soon!!!