Working Knowledge: Making Meetings Work

Article excerpt

Q I am writing on behalf of all the department heads at my library, but I'm sure I speak for many other library employees as well. To put it bluntly, we feel that if we have to sit through one more boring meeting we will just scream! Can you give administrators advice on how to conduct shorter and more effective meetings?

Bored out of Our Minds

A Believe me, I have sat through many deadly meetings myself. And your instinct that others feel the same way is right on, too, according to Susan Dunn in her article "Stop Torturing People with Terrible Meetings" (www.careerknowhow.com/badmeetg.htm), which reports that when people are asked what they hate most about work, they usually say it's the meetings.

How much of our time on the job do meetings actually take up? A 2002 study cited in "Trim the Fat from Office Meetings"--a special report by Susan Bowles for USA Today's online workplace advice center--found that the average employee spends eight-and-a-half hours a week in meetings. Not only do badly run meetings create bored staffers, but they can cost nearly $100 million a year.

Recently, I surveyed public library directors through the North Suburban Library System's online discussion list on how they conducted effective meetings. Interestingly, the majority reported that they didn't necessarily hold monthly all-staff meetings; instead, many incorporated meetings into staff in-service training days, which were held quarterly. Others scheduled meetings after library board meetings so they could relay key decisions to staff in a timely manner.

Meetings can be productive if you follow some basic guidelines:

* Start on time and set a time limit. You may even consider time limits for each agenda item.

* Don't have a meeting just to have a meeting. Be sure that you have enough on the agenda to make it worthwhile, and schedule it when a majority of the staff will be able to attend.

* Treats are always nice additions to a meeting. Forego the usual donuts and coffeecakes and opt instead for scones, fresh fruit, or vegetables. …