Meetings have gotten a bad rap. Type something like, “Are meetings a waste of time?” into Google, and you’ll find no shortage of results blaming meetings for everything from wasting time to lowering employee energy and morale. It’s true that meetings can be a time-suck. And, if your company is one that holds many meetings, your employees might feel exhausted at the end of the day despite the fact that they didn’t really do anything physically demanding all day.
Meetings don’t have to be downers, though; there are several tactics you can employ to make sure that every meeting you hold is productive and even energizing. Here’s how.
Eliminate Unnecessary Meetings
Many meetings are held out of habit, yet they offer no real value to attendees that can’t be achieved through other means. There are tools that can facilitate daily check-ins via email, for instance, such as I Done This, which sends an automated email to team members at the end of each workday asking them to communicate what they’ve accomplished that day or perhaps you can build an “employees-only” section for your business website, where employees can update one another on projects, ask questions, and post good news. Take a look at your habitual meetings and determine if they’re really essential or if they can be replaced by a simpler process.
Invite Only Essential Personnel
Does the entire company really need to be present for the quarterly company review? Unless you’re turning these events into a lively celebration or team-building activity, limit attendance to only the team members who need to be there. If you maintain an up-to-date organizational chart, determining who falls into the need-to-know category is easy. Update the rest of the team with essential stats, data, and other important info via email.
Keep It Focused with a Clear Objective and Agenda
The worst kind of meetings are those without a clear focus. Why? It’s too easy to get completely off-track and spend hours delving into topics that should be held in another setting and limited to a specific group.
The answer to this dilemma is to never have a meeting unless it has a very clear, specific objective. Once you know what your objective is, create an agenda and stick to it. An objective alone can cut 17 minutes from the average meeting length.
Shelf Off-Topic Concerns and Questions for Another Time
It’s possible that attendees might bring up tangentially related concerns during meetings. Taking this bait means you’re relinquishing your focus and veering from your agenda. Of course, you want your employees to feel heard and valued, so rather than brush these concerns off, document them and make plans to discuss the issue with relevant team members at another time.
Make Action Items Part of the Game Plan
In addition to having a clear objective, the most productive meetings always leave attendees with specific action items. If that’s not happening, it might be time to re-evaluate why you’re holding meetings in the first place. Purely informational communication can typically be handled via email.
If meetings are necessary, everyone should be walking away knowing exactly what their personal next steps are and who they need to be communicating with. It’s helpful to send follow-up emails to confirm each person’s action steps following meetings to clarify any confusion and avoid delays.
Keep It Short (and Use a Timer)
Attention spans are pretty short these days, and long meetings (particularly at the beginning of the day) can sap the energy your team needs to meet the day’s goals. Fifteen minutes is a good general rule of thumb to aim for, though it’s not always possible to stick to this guideline. To ensure that you stick to your time limit, use a timer. Knowing that you have a time limit will help you stick to the agenda and move things along.
Meetings don’t have to be boring, distracting time-sucks that sap your team’s energy. Using these strategies, you’ll eliminate unnecessary meetings and make sure that every meeting you do have is efficient and productive.