Meetings are an integral part of most jobs whether they are held over the phone, video or face to face. They are a key channel for communication between internal teams, cross department teams, new business and clients. In essence, they are an important part of building and maintaining business relationships.
It has been reported that the average executive spends 18 hours a week at meetings and almost half of all attendees say that meetings are the biggest time waster at work!
So, what can you do to ensure your meetings are effective and aren’t killing the productivity of the people you work with?
The biggest tip: ask yourself whether what you need to discuss actually requires a meeting. Could you communicate in a different format at this stage or is a meeting the best option for everyone involved?
Once you have established this, follow these tips to ensure everyone gets the most from the meeting.
- Have an objective – There should always be a purpose behind holding a meeting, otherwise it’s just a chat; great for socialising, but not so great for productivity and achieving your business goals. The purpose of the meeting should be set out for everyone to know in advance. This is important because it means attendees will be engaged and will understand the overall goal. By allowing them to gather their thoughts ahead of the meeting you will find it much more considered and to the point, reducing time wasting.
- Plan and Prepare – Depending on the reason for the meeting you may need to prepare a full agenda and send it out in advance to allow the attendees to prepare themselves. For smaller, less formal meetings, a few bullet points for yourself may suffice. Either way, preparation is important for two reasons. Firstly, having an agenda or a few notes will act as a checklist ensuring you cover off everything you needed to discuss. After making time in everyone’s schedule to make it to a meeting the last thing you want to do is forget to discuss something. Secondly, it gives the meeting focus and direction. There’s nothing worse than being in a room of people talking about something completely irrelevant to your expectations, when you have a list of things to do back at your desk! A plan means there’s less chance of digression whilst ensuring all key topics are covered off.
- Allocate a time frame – Time is precious for busy professionals, so it is important to allocate a start and end time to a meeting a stick to it. It has been proven that shorter meetings improve efficiency as people are more likely to remain focussed and will feel proactive when they return to their desk after. 52 minutes is the average amount of time workers can remain truly engaged therefore you should aim keep meetings to an hour or under to ensure you get the best from those in attendance. If major uncertainties come up, make a note of these and address them at a later date otherwise they can end up taking up a large proportion of a meeting without producing a solution.
- Keep numbers to a minimum – Generally, the more people involved, the longer a meeting will go on for so ask yourself honestly whether all the people on the invite list actually need to be there. A meeting should be held in order to make decisions rather than just discuss a topic so only invite the people who are in a position to make these decisions. It can be helpful to plan your agenda before sending out the invite list. This will give you a better understanding of exactly what will be discussed and you can then invite the relevant subject matter experts based.
- Summarise – it’s important to end a meeting by summarising the key points against your objective(s). This is an opportunity to ensure all attendees are clear about their actions and that everyone is on the same page. It is useful to reinforce who is responsible for each of the actions set at this time so that everyone leaves the meeting with a clear understanding of their responsibilities. Encouraging any last questions and making a note of any further discussion topics are both useful things to do at this time.
- Follow up – Following up after a meeting is sometimes over looked, particularly if a meeting has gone on for too long and people have switched off by the end. The benefit of following up is that it ensures everyone is clear about their responsibilities, any actions required and deadlines. Having a document summarising the key points also gives attendees a reference point which can come in handy in future meetings. If the meeting was with people outside of your business, perhaps an existing client or a new business meeting, following up is both a professional, thorough move and a great way to obtain their contact details for the future.
If you are a team leader or manager, there is no harm in asking for feedback on your meetings. After all, it will only improve the experience and engagement levels of your team. For more advice on business and HR issues visit our website.