There are too many
"Too many morning meetings and after school meetings, takes up too much precious time when a teacher has to meet all other deadlines."
"Meetings should not be expected every day."
They're not relevant
"Meetings should be shorter and more to the point."
"I am a part time teacher and I've sometimes gone in on my day off for 'essential' meetings that then turn out to be something different."
It's not done to benefit pupils
"Meetings are long and constantly wander off the point. A proper agenda that is adhered to would help."
"Meetings need to be better managed, clearly focused on teaching and learning. Briefing papers could be given out in advance so everyone is ready to discuss topics in a focused way."
They just give information
"Many meetings are not collaborative, but are to disseminate information. This should be done differently."
Everybody has to be there
"Only appropriate staff should attend the relevant meetings."
"Need consistently shorter and more efficient staff meetings - with allowances for part-time staff."
Should meetings be held at all?
Meetings can be notorious time wasters. Held on a routine basis – whether weekly, bi-monthly or monthly – they are often tedious and wasteful. A meeting should only be held when it's the best way to achieve an objective.
Be clear about those objectives before you hold a meeting - are there better ways to meet those objectives? It's even more important to ask these questions before calling all staff meetings. It's easy for these to become a habit, rather than a practice that meets everyone's needs.
What does good practice look like?
Effective meetings have clear agendas, which state the purpose of each item. All those who are affected by or have a part to play in the items (and only those people) should be present at these meetings. Meetings have opportunities to discuss and collaborate - they should not be about presenting information, as that can be done in other ways. Effective meetings have a time limit on each agenda item, so that all who are present have a responsibility to keep to time. Actions are agreed and circulated promptly, and then followed up.
Review your meetings
To review your current meetings, ask others and yourself:
- What do we want to achieve at this meeting? Are the objectives clear and, at the meeting end, have they been achieved?
- What do we want to achieve after the meeting is over?
- Could those objectives be achieved in a more efficient way e.g. imparting of information?
- Is the meeting necessary, or is it habit?
- What would happen if this meeting were not held?
- Who is needed - do I need to be at the meeting?
- Are all of these people needed all of the time?
- What percentage of the meeting was relevant to me?
- Could the meeting be held at a more convenient time?
- Could the meeting have been shorter?
- If it's a regular meeting, could it be held less often?
Once you've analysed your current meetings, here are some top tips to make sure the meetings you attend are as effective as possible.
1. Ensure objectives are clear
A meeting must have a specific and defined purpose. Meeting organisers should ensure all participants know and understand the meeting's objectives. As a participant, check the objective with the organiser. If it's not clear, sharing the objective with fellow attendees will support more highly focused meetings.
2. Should I be there?
Once you know the meeting objective, ask yourself if you should be there. When organising a meeting, it's worth taking time to think about who really needs to attend. When people feel what's being discussed isn't relevant to them, or that they lack the skills or expertise to be of assistance, they'll view their attendance at the meeting as a waste of time.
3. Sticking to the agenda
If you've been invited to a meeting, ask for the agenda. It should lay out the items to cover, along with a timeline of how many minutes will be spent on each item. An agenda keeps a meeting focused.
4. Start on time, end on time
If you have responsibility for running regular meetings, starting and ending promptly is important - people appreciate it when you understand that their time is valuable. Do not schedule any meetings for longer than an hour.
5. Should technology be in the room?
The reality is that if people are allowed to bring iPads or BlackBerries into the room, they won't be focusing on the meeting or contributing to it. As a participant raise the issue if it's a problem in your meetings.
6. Follow up
It's quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with very different interpretations of what went on. To reduce this risk, the organiser can email the group within an agreed timeline after the meeting, highlighting what was accomplished. This should record the responsibilities given, tasks delegated, and any assigned deadlines. That way, everyone will be on the same page. As a participant, checking your understanding of meeting outcomes, either at the end or following the meeting is a useful prompt for the organiser.
You can find more information about dealing with meetings in our publications: