Meetings are important. Whether it’s a team brainstorming session, a one-to-one with your business mentor or a meeting with your board, you can’t run a business without them.
Unfortunately, a lot of meetings are also a waste of time.
One study suggests that people spend about 31 hours in unproductive meetings each month. Across the U.S. as a whole, this equates to $37 billion on salaries for hours spent in unnecessary meetings.
Another survey conducted last year found that the average worker attends 3.7 meetings every week, which each one demanding almost 2 hours 30 minutes in preparation and attendance.
Altogether, that’s more than a day dedicated to meetings every week.
It sounds excessive, but we like to believe that most meetings are called for a reason. After all, getting people together in a collaborative environment to focus on specific areas of the business often drives innovation and new ideas. We get that.
The problem, it seems, is that many meetings are called for ambiguous reasons and don’t follow a productive format. MeetingSquared’s study suggested that 63% of meetings don’t have a planned agenda – imagine if that meeting was your business. How can you expect to run a successful enterprise or even turn a profit without a structured business plan?
Time is money, and just like a business, meetings must run with an objective, deadlines, a schedule, and the right people in the driving seat. They must add value. With that in mind, try these 5 simple hacks (well, 7, actually) for better, more productive meetings:
1. Send out an agenda with meeting invitations:
Everyone’s busy, and no-one enjoys being invited to meetings for no apparent reason. When you invite delegates to a meeting, tell them why they are required to attend and send an agenda with your invitation. It should explain how long the meeting will run (see next point) and the topics you plan to cover.
2. Over-run at your peril:
Like we said, everyone’s busy. The last thing your team needs is a long, drawn-out meeting that obliterates its schedule. Of course if you want your delegates to lose focus and drift into a daydream, go ahead! Otherwise, stick to your agenda and for goodness sake, stick to your allotted timescales.
A. Timing is so important that we’re giving you a bonus tip:
If you’re incapable of sticking to a schedule, employ back-up procedures. Some people recommend a kitchen timer – yep, the sort that pings when dinner is ready. Others suggest assigning a (preferably outspoken) member of the team to speak up when things over-run. You might even go one step further and assign forfeits. Can’t shut up on time? You’re on coffee duty for a week.
3. Shelve certain items that don’t fit your agenda:
You can’t cover all bases in a single meeting – and you shouldn’t try to, either. If you begin to wander off-topic to the point where your meeting is straying far from your original agenda, make a point of shelving certain topics for later. Some of these subjects may not be relevant to everyone, and those people will thank you for allowing them to get back to their own responsibilities while you re-assign wayward topics to another person, or another meeting entirely.
(v) to crowd closely together, or (n) a small group. Take the advice of the Collins Dictionary and opt for a huddle instead of a meeting. Interpret this as you will, but in essence it means choosing an informal, quick-fire structure that’s short and sweet rather than a formal meeting with umpteen attendees. Agendas still apply, unless you’re going for a daily morning stand-up, which is a swift gathering of between 5 – 15 minutes with the sole purpose of updating the team on individual task progress.
A. On that note…
Standing during your meeting is a great way to keep things short. Sometimes, when you’re in a snug meeting room with squashy chairs and good coffee, attendees have a tendency to get a little too comfortable. Take the chairs away, forget the table and keep things… uncomfortable. That way, you’re more likely to stay on-point and reduce wayward conversations. Walking meetings are gaining traction among the anti-meeting brigade, too.
5. Follow-up with actions and accountabilities:
Remember we said meetings need to add value? All too often, meetings wind up without a summary of points covered. It’s easy to forget actions or responsibilities, and that’s why the minutes are an essential component of every meeting. Always assign a note-taker and make sure a summary of points covered, questions raised and tasks assigned is circulated to all attendees immediately after the meeting. That way, everyone is accountable and the time spent in your meeting wasn’t entirely wasted.
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