Although they’re an essential part of any smooth-running business, they’re not always done right – especially if there’s no clear goal in mind from the outset. Luckily, however, there are a few easy ways to streamline the meeting process, making it far easier to communicate ideas and actually get things done.
To make sure your meetings aren’t a waste of time, here are our top tips on how to guarantee productive meetings:
Set an agenda
A meeting without a plan will never work.
Even if you go into it with the intention of covering all bases, this strategy isn’t guaranteed to make you more productive. Not only will you end up focusing on everything but the key objective, you’ll also get a room full of people on totally different pages.
And let’s face it – there’s only one possible series of events:
1. You’ll try to focus on too many things at once, 2. You’ll realise you should probably cover those topics in separate meetings, and 3. You’ll give up and talk about the weather for 30 minutes.
So to ensure you’re not wasting your time on elevator talk – set up a specific agenda in advance, and actually stick to it.
This should be detailed but concise, outlining everything the meeting is going to cover, what preparation needs to be done, and what you expect to get out of it.
Make it exclusive
Not every meeting is going to be a good use of your time.
That means that whether you’re the organiser or the attendee, it’s vital to understand who actually needs to go.
Aside from wasting the time of those who aren’t getting the most out of being there, having too many people in one meeting could also have a negative impact on productivity. After all, a full room only equals less chance of everyone getting a word in, and more chance of people getting bored.
So ask yourself whether a person’s expertise is really essential before inviting them, and politely decline any meetings you don’t think you’ll be able to add anything to.
Remember: catching up on notes afterwards is always an option.
Get a change of scenery
When it comes to productive thinking, you need the right setting.
And sometimes that isn’t a meeting room. In fact, sometimes it isn’t even sitting down.
Stand-up meetings aren’t just a great way of injecting energy into proceedings, they also encourage people to stick to the point, and think faster and more energetically. After all, who wants to stand for an hour of pointless chat?
Walking meetings are also popular for one-to-one conversations, and getting out of the office can be a great way to regain
Just don’t opt for this format if you’re expecting a large number of attendees. You know, unless you’re cool with playing a long game of Chinese whispers…
Actually start (and end) on time
OK, so this may seem obvious – but that doesn’t mean we’re not all guilty of it.
So don’t be afraid to wrap things up and call people out – whether it’s because they’re still talking five minutes after the meeting ended or are still discussing the weekend five minutes in.
Aside from adhering your allocated start and end times, it’s also key to make meetings as long or as short as they need to be. People tend to use the time they’re given, so you might find that you’re able to get just as much covered in a shorter slot.
Don’t assume you have to default to 30 or 60 minutes either. Some of the most productive meetings can be just 20 minutes (or even 23, if you’re not adverse to uneven numbers).
This could also help to factor in the logistics of back-to-back meetings (e.g. travel, drink top-ups) that are often to blame for late starts.
Technology is great, but it can also be distracting.
And unless you’re using it to help you run the meeting, phones, laptops, tablets (insert other device here) probably aren’t essential – especially if you’re focusing on them more than you’re contributing to the discussion.
Not only will you risk missing what you came to the meeting to do, you could also come across rude – especially if you’re asking people to repeat themselves every five minutes.
So use your time wisely, give the group your full attention, and avoid the temptation to multitask.
Your emails will still be there when the meeting ends.
Even the most productive meeting can be sabotaged by a bad ending.
You might have covered everything you needed, stuck to the agenda, and come up with a solution. But then the meeting ends, and you all go on with your day – with no record of the work you just did.
So how can you make sure your meeting has a lasting effect?
Firstly, always take notes throughout. This will remind you of what you talked about, influence next steps, and enable those who weren’t at the meeting to catch up.
Secondly, create (and email) a clear action plan – allocating tasks and next steps for everyone involved. Whether it’s that research needs to be done, clients need to be contacted, or products need to be built – there are a number of possible next steps to come out of meetings.
You just need to make sure you keep the ball rolling.
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