How to Have More Effective Meetings

Do you ever find yourself sitting at a meeting that seems to be going nowhere? You want to stay focused, but this is getting absurd. Your coworker is talking about a third personal anecdote, which may or may not be related to a minor aspect of your agenda. You do your best to pretend you are actually still hearing the words coming out of his mouth, as you tune out. The meeting may not be officially over, but as far as you are concerned, it might as well have been over half an hour ago. If this sounds familiar, we have bad news for you: you have a serious case of bad meeting culture.

About meetings

Meetings are used to exchange information, delegate, organize, coordinate and plan. They are an organizational process where the company’s resources are put together in order to achieve a common goal in the most productive way. While there is little doubt that meetings are important, they should not be confused for the end goal.

Considering the pivotal role of meetings in any company, one would think that this is one area that we’ve figured out. And yet, according to a consultant Carson Tate, the dominating meeting culture in corporate America is ‘unsustainable and unproductive’. Our workdays can sometimes consist of nothing but back to back meetings and little or no actual work. This doesn’t sound really productive, does it?

How to improve meetings?

The good news about the meeting culture is that there are some measures one can take to improve this vital process. Even if you are not in the decision making position, you can still contribute your share in changing the meeting culture of your organization by promoting the best practices.

Here are 9 things you can do to have better meetings:

#1 Have an agenda. Do yourself a favor and cancel any meeting that has no agenda. Meeting without one is a purposeless waste of time. It might sound obvious to you (in which case: good job), but you wouldn’t believe how many companies don’t get it.

#2 Communicate prior to the meeting. You want people to come prepared, so there is no idle time and no surprises. Just don’t overdo it. Keep the details for the meeting itself.

#3 Encourage participation. If people don’t participate, you are probably better off not having a meeting at all. Make sure that everybody feels welcome to make an input.

#4 Shoot for shorter. Instead of 1 hour, allocate just 45 or even 30 minutes of meeting time. More often than not, a few minutes less will not significantly decrease meeting’s output.

#5 Keep the balance between structure and chaos. If the meeting is too structured, there will be little room for new ideas. Leave things too unstructured and you will lose the focus. Different situations of course require different degrees of (un)structuredness — it’s your job (and everyone involved) to find the sweet spot.

#6 Close every point on the agenda. This is the reason you are having a meeting, right? You might be tempted to call another meeting about a specific agenda point, but try not to if not absolutely necessary.

#7 Summarize. You’re probably familiar with the feeling that everyone is on the same page as soon as the meeting is done. Fast forward a few minutes and you are not even sure if you were on the same meeting. Be sure you summarize all the key points and that everyone gets them, before there is a need for a crisis meeting.

#8 Try stand-up meeting. This meeting productivity hack can get you a long way. When sitting in a cozy office chair, people get comfortable. Too comfortable perhaps. Try standing up meeting and watch how quickly you will get through the agenda.

#9 Try not to have a meeting at all. Keep the costs/benefits equation in your mind when assessing whether or not you need to call a meeting. Sometimes your best course of action is to just send an email instead.

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