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Don’t be a victim: Avoid ‘death by meeting’ phenomenon

Meetings are still a prevalent feature of corporate culture, particularly here in the Philippines.

These gatherings are meant to open up structured avenues for the dynamic expression, transmission, and exchange of ideas, which if done right, can fast-track the successful achievement of business goals and foster good working relationships among colleagues and team members.

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However, we are far too often bogged down by instances of ineffective meetings. Who hasn’t fallen victim to underprepared agendas or presentation materials, or the operations of an entire department coming to a standstill due to endless meetings, and worse, numerous follow-up meetings (and thus, more time and resources wasted)?

We spoke to Pia Reyes-Cruz, an HR and organizational development leader with 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, to gather her insights on how to eradicate the so-called “death by meeting” phenomenon:

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Q: What are typical habits that hinder productive meetings?

The numerous “bad habits” that usually get in the way of successful meetings range from:  Having unclear or overloaded agendas, not giving a time limit to the meeting, not setting ground rules, inviting nonvalue adding participants, lack of proper documentation, lack of preparation by the leader and participants, not having a logical flow, and giving in to distractions (gadgets/devices, side conversations, off-topic discussions, etc.).

Q: With the maturity of online call and messaging technologies, are face to face meetings still necessary?

Yes, the different technology platforms that facilitate real-time discussions help make some remote meetings quicker, more convenient, and less expensive.

However, the value of face to face meetings in our highly-relational Filipino culture still outweighs online chats and messaging tools.

Face to face meetings build better trust and understanding, as well as a stronger sense of shared mission among the participants.

It is not uncommon for misunderstandings and confusion to occur in texts, e-mails, and online chats, which is why I would still definitely recommend face to face encounters for first-time meetings, as well as in instances where big decisions are made or conflicts need sorting out.

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Q: How can one manage the unavoidable distractions during meetings?

It is common for people these days to come to meetings lugging their laptops, phones, tablets, smartwatches, and other devices, and be distracted by these throughout the meeting.

One simple way to manage this is to assertively set norms or “house rules” at the start of the meeting.

It pays to be very specific, for example by advising attendees that only presenters need to have their computers, or setting aside 10 seconds at the start of the meeting to switch all devices to silent mode. Calling out distracting behavior also helps.

Additionally, increasing the engagement and involvement of the participants during meetings lessens distracting behavior, so make sure you invite the correct participants.

Ensure that they understand their roles and how they are expected to add value to the meeting; they should not be mere spectators.

Pia is a steadfast believer in goal-setting and lifelong learning, and is skilled in workplace learning, performance and competency management, as well as leadership and career development. She will be facilitating a workshop on May 26, Thursday, entitled “Leading  Productive Meetings: Optimizing Your Time and Resources” to be held at the Inquirer Academy, located along Don Chino Roces Avenue corner Ponte Street, Makati City.

Aimed toward both frequent meeting facilitators and participants, the course will run through the important keys and techniques to run short and structured meetings, the different types of meetings that can be employed, and, in fact, how to evaluate if calling a meeting is necessary in the first place.

For more information, you may e-mail [email protected], call (632) 834-1557 and look for Astrud de Castro, or register online through www.inquireracademy.com.)

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