Have you ever sat in a meeting that felt like a complete waste of time? If you are like the majority of the American working class than the answer to that question is probably yes. These are the meetings where everyone strolls in late, no decisions are actually made, and no action plans are defined. These types of meetings can consume your workday leaving you with little time to get your actual work done. Here are 10 tips you can follow to make your meetings more productive.
1 – Review recurring meetings. A lot of the meetings tend to be recurring meetings such as a weekly touch base with your manager or the bi-weekly meeting on a long term project. While it is important to have these types of meetings, you should review the agenda each week to determine if there is anything that actually needs to be discussed. It may be more productive to cancel the meeting for one week and spend that saved hour at your desk working on a project.
2 – Set and share an agenda for each meeting. An agenda should be created and sent out at least 24 hours prior to a meeting. This way everyone is clear on the discussion points and can come prepared to discuss them. It will also keep the conversation on track by having the agenda as a guideline for the conversation.
3 – Start and end all meetings on time. How many meetings have you been in where people stroll in 5-10 minutes late after a meeting’s start time? After they say hi to everyone and settle in, they are brought up to speed on the current conversation. Recapping the discussion when people are late is one of the main reasons why so many meetings quickly become unproductive. Don’t recap meetings for late attendees. This is like rewarding someone for being late. Set a standard that your meetings are going to start and end on time.
4 – Cover the main points at the beginning of the meeting. Start with the most important topics first to make sure you have time to discuss them. You would hate to spend 20 minutes discussing something of low priority and then run out of time before you can get to the main point. You should also number the discussion points on the meeting’s agenda so you know which topics to cover first.
5 – Determine the right meeting length. Make sure that you schedule the right amount of time for each meeting. Don’t try to squeeze 60 minutes’ worth of discussion into a 30-minute time slot. On the other hand, you don’t want to schedule 60 minutes for a quick touch base. Remember that each attendees time is valuable. Take the time to review the agenda to make sure that you have the right amount of time scheduled to get through the discussion points.
6 – Make sure the right people are in the right meetings. There is nothing more frustrating than spending 30 minutes reviewing a topic, aligning on an action plan, but then not being able to put it into motion because the person with final say was not included in the meeting invite or was unable to attend. If a key player is not able to attend the meeting than post-pone it for another time when all attendees are available. Also, review the agenda and make sure that the topics relate to all of the people included in the meeting invite. If most people are only needed for 1-2 topics, be respectful of their time and only schedule them to attend the meeting when those specific points are being covered.
7 – Determine if the meeting should be a “stand-up meeting” or a traditional “sit-down meeting”. Stand-up meetings are great for a quick share out of information. People are generally uncomfortable standing for long periods of time so keep these meetings short and to the point. People tend to be more focused on the meeting and there is less side conversation when forced to stand up. Utilize sit-down meetings for topics that require more discussion or there are multiple items on the agenda.
8 – Ask people to close their laptops and put down their phones in meetings if possible. Have you ever attended meetings where everyone is busy answering emails on their laptops or scrolling through their phone? If the meeting attendees are focused on their laptop or phone than they are not focused on the meeting itself. Meetings tend to take longer and are less productive when the attendees are splitting their focus on the meeting and their devices. At the beginning of the meeting, kindly ask everyone to close their computers, put down their phones, and focus on the meeting. You will be surprised by how much more productive meetings will become.
9 – Decide on next steps. Have you ever felt unsure of the action items coming out of a meeting? The meeting may have been full of great conversation but at the end the action items were not clearly defined for the team and everyone is left feeling a little confused. At the end of every meeting make a list of all the action items needed and determine an “owner” for each one. The owner will be responsible for following up or putting that action into place. This step unifies the team and makes someone accountable for the actions.
10 – Send out a recap on discussion points and action plans. After each meeting concludes, the meeting owner should send out a recap of the meeting discussion points, decisions, action items and owners. Email the recap out to everyone on the meeting invite. This becomes a great point of reference for future conversations and may help to answer questions that may come up in the future.
By following the above 10 steps, your meetings should become more focused, impactful, and productive.