One of the biggest time wasters in modern business is meetings, and not because they’re not important. Rather, they’re run so inefficiently that it’s hard to have effective meetings. Don’t get us wrong - we love meetings, we've built a business because people need to meet. But just because we need to meet doesn't mean meetings need to suck.
So if you feel your company is stuck in a rut of meetings that could be improved, take a look at our 7 tips to help create more effective meetings.
How many meetings did you sit through last week that was just a complete waste of time?
This is a safe space - you can be honest here. The truth is, a good majority of our meetings could be handled over email and aren’t anywhere close to mission critical.
The good news is you can stand up to useless meetings and put a stop to them. You just have to identify which meetings can be abolished.
To do so, look over this great flow chart (and accompanying article) from the Harvard Business Review. They give a list of four questions to consider before deciding whether a meeting is the right course of action. They suggest asking the following before scheduling a meeting:
If the answer to any of those questions is no, then you don’t need to schedule a meeting. Instead of pulling people away from their work and eating up productivity workstations for a meeting that eats up their valuable productivity time, handle issues over email, chat, a phone call, or a video conference.
You can come up with other metrics to determine the necessity of a meeting based on your individual business needs, but the information from Harvard is a great baseline from which to start.
Meetings do present valuable collaboration time, but having the wrong people in attendance can lessen a meeting’s efficacy. With only the people who are pertinent to the meeting’s success in attendance, you’ll notice an immediate uptick in how much gets done during a given meeting.
Even the meetings you need to have are often less effective - and last longer than they should - because it’s easy to overlook an important aspect of the meeting process - creating written agendas.
Written agendas keep the meeting in check, participants on task, and make sure that everything that needed discussion and decisions is addressed. Meetings with no agendas are the type that devolves into storytelling, arguments over departmental budgets and workflows, or worst of all, the meetings where standard information is repeated over and over.
This goes hand-in-hand with creating a written agenda. Once your meeting is outlined, you need to assign out any tasks that you can’t handle on your own. As the theme of this post shows, the key to effective meetings is enough thought and planning beforehand to make things run smoothly.
Additionally, if you need input and reports from other attendees, make sure to give them clear instructions and a deadline for completing their pre-meeting tasks.
During the meeting, you’ll come up with tasks that need completion - action items. This means you’ll need to assign out action items to ensure they’re accomplished, as well as creating time for a post-meeting follow up to review finalized action items.
Every office has “that guy” who cracks jokes, tells stories, and generally runs work-related conversations off on wild tangents. These personalities are detrimental to an effective meeting and work against the tips we’ve presented so far.
Now, an effective meeting isn’t always stoic, but there’s a fine line to walk between a light-hearted atmosphere and accomplishing meeting goals. If you’re the meeting organizer, keep the meeting on track and on topic.
The Balance, a website with content that helps you produce results with effective meetings, wrote a post in which they said, “Whether facilitating or attending the meeting, you need to involve each attendee in the accomplishment of the meeting goals. This ensures that each participant is invested in the topic of the meeting.”
Nothing’s worse than a meeting that runs long - except maybe one that starts far too late. In addition to eating up the time of your meeting attendees, it sets back the next group scheduled to use the meeting space. That messes up everyone’s schedule and decreases the efficacy of your meeting as well.
During the meeting, it’s likely that people will bring up different topics or ideas that don’t directly relate to the meeting at hand but are worth further consideration outside of the meeting setting. If that’s the case, then you need to take note of those ideas and schedule some time for brief after-meeting follow up - preferably over email or chat. This shows the attendees that you value their contributions and doesn’t detract from the purpose of the meeting.
Running meetings effectively isn’t too tall a task - it’s a matter of changing how they’re managed. Once you make a few tweaks to your meetings, you’ll see an immediate impact in how effective your meetings are. With those minor adjustments, you can hold meetings without feeling obligated to send these mugs to everyone on your attendee list.
Meetings can be very productive - but only if you’re invested in making them so. The better staffed, organized, and timed your meetings are, the more results you’ll see from them. With that in mind, we challenge you to make your next meeting better than the last and to do so by using the tips from this post.