7 Top Tips for More Productive Meetings

Productive MeetingYou know what gets my goat more than anything…a meeting held just for the sake of having a meeting.  If you are not having a productive meeting, then really, what is the point?  Isn’t it just wasting your time?

When running a business (of any size) – you simply don’t have time or resources to waste.  Yet many small business owners waste countless hours on meetings that lack focus, run on too long, and pull staff away from more productive tasks & projects.

“Great, I just attended a meeting that had no relevance to me whatsoever.  How many times have you ever said that.  Even once is one time too many.”

Follow these seven tips to make your meetings more efficient and cost-effective.

1. What’s your goal?

Every meeting should have a clear objective, and a reason the meeting is needed in the first place. Work this out before scheduling the meeting. Your meeting goal should be focused – see if you can state its purpose in five words or less. One study showed that a simple, brief statement outlining a meeting’s objective can reduce meeting length by 17 minutes.

2. Draft an agenda

Now before you freak out, I am not talking a 16 page document.  What I mean is outlining the meeting’s discussion points in advance with the aim to keep everyone on track at the meeting. If it seems the discussion is veering off course, any attendee can point to the agenda as a reminder of your objectives. Distributing an agenda a few days in advance with supporting paperwork can help everyone arrive prepared and ensure they know why they are there.

3. Invite the right people

Have you ever thought about the cost effect of having meetings and taking your staff away from productive jobs or tasks?  The cost of including staff in meetings for which they have no stake in the outcome can be huge – especially for small businesses that don’t have a huge team to cover any slack. This infographic suggests the annual cost of wasted time in work meetings is approximately $37 billion in the US alone. Consider including only those directly responsible for carrying out the tasks required in your discussion. Those in the meeting can pass on information to other staff later.

4. Start on time, end on time

Begin every meeting promptly, no matter what. Those who arrive on time will immediately start to feel restless if they have to wait for others. Monday morning at 9am might not be the most productive time for a meeting, likewise Friday afternoon people are already in weekend mode.  People are busy, so starting and ending on time is crucial to ensure the productivity for the rest of the day is not negatively impacted.

5. Keep it short

Perhaps business owners set meetings for 30 minutes or an hour out of habit, but the ideal meeting length is somewhere between 15 and 18 minutes. Any longer and attention spans wane and productivity drops. Follow your agenda and have a timer to help everyone stay focused. The timer can signal when the discussion is running too long, or time is nearly up. To avoid sitting in a boardroom for hours on end with no real benefit, have you tried stand up meetings.  Much more direct and to the point if you have a small team.

6. Ban devices (except a timer)

This normally freaks people out, but checking phones or iPads during meetings is just a huge distraction to all. If the meeting starts and ends on time, and is a maximum of 20 minutes – devices should not be needed (other than a timer). Ask staff to leave their laptops at their desks, too. Research shows that conceptual recall improves when we hand write notes rather than type them (ah the joys of old school pen and paper).

7. Facilitate the discussion

If you have invited more than one or two people to a meeting then you need to take charge and act as a facilitator.  You job is to ensure everyone gets a chance to contribute. Often one or two people do much of the talking in a meeting, but a meeting is most productive when all personalities share in the discussion, too. Often introverts are highly creative thinkers, but they need encouragement to jump into a discussion.

“After close to 15 years in the corporate world and having meetings every damn week ‘because we have always done it that way’, I am so glad now that I can choose to do things a bit differently.”

So, if you want to have a productive meeting, plan for it in advance.  Work out what you really want to achieve from it, and schedule only the vital topics to be covered.  This will ensure you have the right people attend and your productivity during (and after) the meeting is on point.

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