Ever sit through a meeting that was beyond unproductive? You know, the kind where the team deviates off topic and chats aimlessly over the course of an hour about virtually everything that’s not work related?
Boring, wasteful meetings are, at best, annoying. At worst, they’re total productivity killers. Believe it or not, U.S. businesses waste $37 billion each year on unproductive meetings, according to research cited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). What’s more, the BPS also says that one out of every three meetings we attend is a complete waste of time.
While many technologies and platforms have emerged that promise businesses will be able to do away with meetings altogether (e.g., Asana, Knotable, and Trello), a future in which organizations never have them seems highly unlikely.
So how do you make the most out of meetings? For starters, you’ll want to reduce the frequency of your meetings. If you meet with your team every week to chart progress, consider switching to every other week and see how it goes. Beyond that, you should also:
1. Have an agenda
You might think you’re able to lead your team through various topics during an hour-long meeting. But folks, including you, are easily distracted.
By preparing a bare-bones agenda — it can be as simple as one word for every topic you want to cover — you’re much more likely to cover everything you want to within the allotted time period.
2. Use a moderator
Meetings can get derailed quickly. All it takes is one talkative and imaginative employee to start ranting, and next thing you know, 15 minutes have disappeared and no one is any wiser.
A simple fix: use a moderator who can help the team stay on track. That person can have the authority to cut people off when appropriate so meetings don’t run too long.
3. Choose who to invite — carefully
Do you really need to meet with the whole department? Or do you just need to meet with a handful of key players?
Don’t automatically assume you need to invite everyone to attend a meeting, no matter how routine it is. Do your best to only invite people who need to be there. The rest of the team can stay at their desks and tackle their assignments.
4. Schedule a short meeting
An hour might sound like the perfect amount of time for a meeting. But do you really need to spend 60 full minutes talking?
A general rule when it comes to meetings: the shorter, the better. If you were planning to host an hour-long meeting, consider scheduling one for 30 minutes and seeing how productive you can make it.
5. Start on time
According to the BPS, for whatever reason, 37% of meetings don’t start on time. In such a scenario, you have employees sitting around the table twiddling their thumbs and waiting for everyone to arrive.
That doesn’t sound like a particularly productive use of time. If you’ve scheduled a meeting to start at 2 p.m., don’t wait until 2:07 p.m. to get rolling. Start on time, and don’t provide a recap for stragglers who show up late.
6. Keep meeting minutes
It’s impossible for everyone to remember everything that is discussed during a particular meeting. Be sure to select someone to takes notes during the meeting — and share them with the rest of the team afterwards. This way, everyone will know what’s expected of them moving forward.
Though they might not be the most exciting thing in the world, meetings are still a necessary part of work. But it’s not enough to simply have a meeting and hope for the best. Rethink your approach to how your organization handles meetings. Chances are you’ll be able to make them a whole lot more effective — which in turn will make your organization more productive and help drive employee engagement.