Be Efficient and Effective When Sharing Information

Posted by Kristin Arnold on May 29, 2010

In today’s fast-paced working environment, teams cannot afford the luxury of spending their precious time simply “sharing information.”  Rather, teams should spend their valuable time DOING something with that information, such as reacting, clarifying, discussing, agreeing, or disagreeing on how to move forward.

If all you are going to do is pass information up or down “the food chain,” there are other, more efficient ways to transmit information among your teammates:

Send Info Out Early.  In advance of the team coming together, send the information via electronic mail, voicemail, “snail mail,” memos, letters, briefing notes, etc.  More importantly, expect team members to have read the information and come prepared to discuss it.  Many teams agree that the agenda and “read ahead” material should be sent out at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.

Have an Exec Summary.  Initially, spoon-fed teams may balk at the notion that they should read all their “stuff” prior to the meeting.  After all, they are used to being briefed!  To ease their pain, send the information out before the meeting, but also have an “executive summary” available for the team read.  Then begin discussion.  If a team member needs further detail, you can politely point out that more information can be found in the “stuff” that was sent to them.  Keep moving.  Don’t get bogged down by the one person who didn’t do their homework.

Hand Key Info Out.  If you find yourself in a situation where you must spoon feed them, have a key information handout for people to follow along.  Don’t read off the handout — people can read much faster than they can listen.  Simply highlight the key information the team needs to know in order to begin discussion.  You may opt to provide more detail in the handout than in an executive summary, but don’t speak to it, unless the team (not just one person) raises it as an issue.

Keep Time.  If you must take time to present information, use a timekeeper.  Allot a specific amount of time to each topic.  Have a timekeeper provide a subtle “countdown” (e.g., five minutes to go, two minutes to go).  At the end of the time, the team moves on to the next topic.

Attach It.  Another way to share information and save everyone’s time is to attach the information (brochure, website address, spreadsheet, etc.) to the team’s meeting minutes.  Now everyone can read the documents at their own pace.  Identify a point of contact in case there are any questions.

Question:  Are your team meetings efficient and effective?

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