Ten Tips to Conduct More Productive Meetings
Meetings can be one of the most efficient ways to brainstorm new ideas and get solutions to problems you are currently struggling with, however, they can also be a major waste of time if done incorrectly. Employees across the country dread meetings because most of the time they are sitting there twiddling their thumbs with little to no input to offer. But there are several ways you can improve your meetings and get the support of your employees every time.
Follow our top 10 tips to conducting more productive meetings:
1. Only invite the necessary players to the meeting. A lot of people invite others to meetings as a courtesy rather than necessity. Make sure this doesn’t happen by only holding meetings with people who are vital to the conversation. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings because they aren’t invited to a meeting. If you start holding shorter and more intimate meetings, there is bound to be a time everyone is excluded at some point, and included at some point. It’s much more efficient to invite only those necessary to the meeting and directly involved in the solution you need.
Appoint a time keeper. Have someone designated to politely interrupt the meeting if you are going over-time. Try to keep each main topic of the meeting to 5-10 minute brainstorm sessions. After 15 minutes, people usually start to tune out, so keeping on topic for 5-10 minutes and then switching to the next bullet point will help keep people engaged in the meeting. Also, try to limit your meetings to no longer than 30-45 minutes. Again, the human attention span clocks out pretty quick, so even an engaging meeting with rotating topics will lose people after a certain amount of time. And if you have to conduct a long meeting, take a break every 30 minutes. Let people stretch for 5 minutes and grab a glass of water. Little breaks do wonders.
3. It’s also important to appoint a note taker (separate from the time keeper). Have someone designated to taking meeting notes throughout the session so that you can continue the conversation and not have to worry about writing every idea down. After the meeting, the note taker will put together the meeting notes and action items that have come out of the meeting in a follow up. It’s extremely important to follow up with each member of the meeting giving specific action items and due dates for these items in order to get the most out of the meeting. Without this, it’s unclear as to who will be doing what. Details will slip through the cracks because John thought that Sam was handling that, and Susy thought Paul was handling the other thing. Note takers help create accountability and follow through of tasks.
4. Write up a brief meeting overview and send it out to all participants prior to the meeting. This will help everyone come into the meeting prepared and get them to start thinking about the solutions to the problems at hand. Also, if your meeting involves some pre-education, do this in an email beforehand as well. The last thing you want to do is to lecture your meeting participants for an hour on some new technology or process that they could easily read through themselves. You’ll lose half of the attendees in 15 minutes and the other half will be skipping ahead and not paying attention to what you’re saying. Send out educational materials prior to the meeting and make sure your participants read it. For example, have each person email you back a one to two sentence summary of the information to prove they’ve read the information and absorbed it.
5. Do not allow latecomers to attend. This may sound harsh at first, but it will teach employees to be on time and will greatly improve efficiency in a meeting. People who arrive late interrupt the flow and also require a couple of minutes to be caught up. This distracts all of the other participants and totally throws off your meeting-mojo. When that conference room door is closed, no one is allowed in. They can be included on the meeting follow up emails and can read the meeting notes in an email. Next time they will be sure to be on time.
6. Ban electronic devices in meetings. There is really no need for electronic devices in a meeting, besides maybe the note taker who would need their laptop to take notes. Otherwise, electronics are only distracting. Even if you have your computer open to take notes, the internet is too easily accessed with the click of a button and web-surfing will commence. Anything that needs additional research in a meeting should be tabled and noted as an action item for someone to follow up on.
7. Try to keep things positive and encourage participation from everyone. It’s easy for a couple of dominant personalities to run the meeting, so be sure to ask input from even the most shy employee. There could be a million dollar idea in that person’s head just waiting to come out! Keeping things positive will also help encourage others to speak up. If you bluntly shut down ideas, people won’t want to contribute. Accept all ideas and build off of them versus cutting things down right away. It’s better to think and brainstorm without limitations, develop great ideas and solutions, and then refine and based on restrictions of the project.
8. Make sure you’re in a calm state of mind. Don’t enter into the meeting in a frenzy with a million things going on in your head. Take a moment to pause and reflect before the meeting. This could be a couple of moments at your desk, or perhaps even on the walk down to the meeting. Clear your mind, take a couple of deep breaths, and get in the mind set for the meeting. Come into the meeting refreshed and ready. Leading by example is one of the best ways to encourage your employees and stand out amongst others. Get your meeting attendees to laugh and smile, it will make the biggest difference.
9. Always approach meetings with a goal. Don’t call a meeting because you think you should, call a meeting with a specific goal to achieve upon completion of the meeting. Be specific and limit it to one goal. Breaking up projects and goals into smaller bits and pieces help employees (and you!) feel like you’re accomplishing more and makes the project more digestible. It’s much easier for people to stay focused on one topic and arrive at a solution than throwing several problems at them and asking for several solutions at once.
10. And last but not least, never wait for a meeting to make decisions. If you need an answer, get it, don’t wait for the meeting. And on the flip side, if the meeting is no longer necessary, cancel it. There is no reason to hold a meeting if it is no longer needed.
So what did you think? Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these tips with success or if you have something to add!