“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost”
Meetings are meant to foster productivity, efficiency, and lead to better outcomes. They help everyone to be on the same page and collectively decide what needs to be done. Even the most challenging tasks can be completed in an efficient and productive meeting with a brainstorming session.
However, in actuality, we find ourselves stuck in unproductive meetings, week after week. As per a study, on average, an executive spends 18 hours every week in meetings. Shockingly, more than 50% of those surveyed believe that meetings are the number one time-waster at work.
In reality, not only can meetings be a waste of time, but if not planned efficiently, they are actually a waste of money too. In another study about time budgeting, it was found that a single weekly meeting of mid-level managers cost an organization approximately $15M a year!
Imagine how much you could potentially be spending on meetings in a year, keeping in mind all the employees in your organization. Further, poorly organized and inefficiently run meetings can also impact employee morale and decrease productivity.
In the favor of efficiency, saving time & money, and maintaining good morale, we are sharing this article to help you with tips to have productive team meetings!
- Pre-meeting preparations
Pre-meeting preparations help make meetings more productive. Pre-meeting groundwork can be defined as any task, activity, or documentation that should be reviewed or completed prior to a meeting taking place. Pre-meeting preparation enables participants to use their time productively and helps wind up meetings effectively as everyone is already prepared and on the same page at the time of the meeting.
- Set clear meeting goals
Every meeting, even mundane ones such as daily status meetings, should have a clearly stated goal. Meetings that do not have clearly stated goals tend to last the entire duration of the scheduled time and often even longer. Further, at times they end with nothing clearly accomplished.
A meeting’s success is decided by whether its goals are met and a rational course of action is decided on. Work backward from your goal to determine what needs to be on the meeting agenda, who all should be invited to the meeting, and what information the attendees will need to have.
Keep meetings short and to the point to make them productive – save time and money.
- Decide on the agenda and share it ahead of the meeting.
All meetings should have an agenda that directly links to the goals of the meeting. The agenda should have a meeting schedule to ensure that all items and presenters receive sufficient time.
The agenda should include the following necessary items-
• a list of topics to be covered
• a brief description of the meeting’s objectives
• a list of people attending the meeting
• who will address each topic and the time allotted to each person for it
• the time and location of the meeting
• any background information participants need to know about the subject
Improve and restructure the proposed agenda when necessary, but always try to finalize it at least one day before the meeting for all attendees to be on the same page going into the meeting.
- Invite all required attendees and ensure that decision-makers attend the meeting
It is advised to invite fewer people for a meeting, yet ensure to invite all required attendees. It is very unproductive to schedule a meeting only to find out that some or all of the attendees who are critical decision-makers to successfully accomplishing the meeting’s goals are not present.
Meetings typically consist of two or more groups of employees; those who are essential for achieving the meeting’s goals and those who request owners or may involve in contributing ideas or decisions.
For comprehensiveness and collaboration, invite both groups, but ensure that those who are essential to accomplishing the meeting’s goals be in attendance.
It is equally important to avoid inviting irrelevant attendees. Otherwise, it is a waste of time for them, when they could be focusing on something more important.
- Eliminate distractions
To warrant having everyone’s full attention, it will help to accomplish the goals of the meeting as quickly as possible. Considering that most people are now working remotely, try to have a distraction-free meeting and request others for the same.
Do your best to eliminate all the distractions during the meeting from your cell phones, your surroundings, and anything else. Make sure that your internet is stable and all supporting equipment like laptop, headphones, virtual meeting format are all working fine.
- Pre-decide on the flow and the presenter of the meetings
Prior to the meeting, it is advised to define who will start and set the pretext of the meetings and who will present through the meeting and who will send the minutes of the meeting. The facilitator is responsible for ensuring that the meeting proceeds productively. If for some reason you cannot facilitate the meeting, pre-assign the responsibility to someone before the meeting.
Additionally, the facilitator should monitor the meeting if it gets off-topic or ceases to be productive.
Keep the flow of the meeting ready before the meeting to avoid any last meeting confusion and glitches.
- Do not forget to record the meeting
Record the meeting for everyone’s future reference. Assign a recorder before the meeting. The recorder’s role is to record the meeting session, take notes of discussion and decisions made, future action items, and all other relevant information from the meeting.
Having good notes helps ensure that information doesn’t slip through. Send minutes of the meeting as soon as possible, but no more than 24 hours after the meeting.
- End meetings and update everyone when the goal has been accomplished.
Meetings should not end just because time was not enough; instead, they should end when the objective of the meeting has been accomplished or a course of action has been decided on.
However, if it appears that the allotted time would not be sufficient for accomplishing the meeting’s goals, the facilitator should reserve some time at the end of the meeting to determine what steps are required to accomplish the goals, and action decide on the next action item.
- Assign action items and move on.
It’s important not to get stuck on a topic for too long. The facilitator needs to identify action items that have been decided and ask the recorder to make a note of them, and then proceed to the next agenda item. All too often, meetings get off track because a group begins discussing details of an action item that aren’t relevant to the meeting’s goals.
- Share the meeting notes and request additional information where required
Get the recorder’s meeting notes and distribute them to attendees as needed. Ensure that the attendees agree with the notes and that everyone who has been assigned an action item knows what’s expected and to whom he or she is accountable. To help new employees or those who missed the meeting get caught up quickly, archive the meeting notes on a Web site or in a file share.
- Plan follow up meetings
An outcome or a proposed solution from the meeting and implementation of that proposed solution is the ultimate objective of a meeting. Otherwise, this will result in more future meetings; leading to wasting valuable time of all stakeholders which is indirectly equal to revenue.
Even after a well-planned meeting with clear action items and roles & responsibilities defined, lack of follow up meeting leaves some of the things incomplete. Hence, if required, plan follow up meetings to ensure that everything is on track.
- Periodically gather feedback
Occasionally connect with your team and gather feedback on how everyone can make meetings more meaningful for all the attendees. This is even more important, especially for recurring meetings.
We are not promoting the idea that meetings are completely useless, but like it or not, you cannot completely disregard meetings. What we are trying to emphasize is planning meetings only when necessary. So, it’s important to make them as useful and constructive as possible.
The good news is many organizations are now leading the way in managing their meetings effectively. If you are a manager, you may want to implement these tips with your teams and if you are a team member, you may use these to make suggestions so that meetings really can become super prolific.