(It’s not Counter-Intuitive) How to Hold Productive Meetings
Eight Pieces of Advice to Assist You with Making Your Next Meeting Meaningful.
Your calendar is an inexhaustible list of nothing except meetings. You are starting to feel frustrated because none of these ever seem to conclude with a true sense of accomplishment. Even worse, you are starting to feel malaise towards the reoccurring meeting every Wednesday afternoon. It has a history of consistently stealing two hours from your valuable time each week! What happened to exciting collaborative meetings that are beneficial to the entire organization? What happened to identifying solutions, overcoming obstacles, and exchanging valuable information within a concise and focused time frame of 30 minutes? When conducted purposefully, meetings provide a wealth of information and can be invaluable when executed correctly.
Meetings should be meaningful! They should produce something exceptional that could not have resulted otherwise. Here are eight actions to ensure your next meeting is significant.
Why It Is Important to Avoid Meetings
You read that correctly; avoid holding superfluous meetings. There is a reason some of the world’s most influential CEOs such as Bezos, Cuban, and Musk avoid them. Do not have the group assemble if a solution can be identified with a five- or ten-minute phone call. Do not call if it can be solved with a simple email. When there is no rationale in a scheduled meeting, avoid squandering the precious time of multiple employees by forcing them to endure another uneventful assembly.
There will ultimately be situations where a meeting is beneficial for the entire team. Sometimes you will require the opinion of multiple individuals for a decision. An email chain will not support the open communication necessary. With instances similar to this, a meeting may be appropriate, favorable, and advantageous.
Another issue many teams encounter is attempting to organize a meeting around a couple of demanding schedules. Do not arrange one to simply ensure that everyone is in attendance. Scheduling a conference call, especially to elucidate information, is a viable alternative. Conference calls permit the team to remain at their computers, allowing them to immediately return to work afterwards.
Preparation Is Key for Any Meeting
When organizing a meeting, the scheduler should have an idea regarding the topic of discussion. When sending out the scheduling email, it should contain what will be deliberated. It is auspicious to inform the group about the subject and encourage them to conduct their own research on applicable topics. This allows the team to prepare for the meeting individually.
You should not be required to explain the subject of discussion at the start of the meeting. Each individual should arrive punctually to the room with their own notes. This method supports autonomy and provides a sense of accountability crucial for each employee. Conducting individual research produces diverse ideas, interpretations, and suggestions. Diversiform opinions often result in an enriched dialogue that is better adept at identifying a unique solution.
Why Meetings Should Not Be Round Times
It is an unfortunate curse that the human brain favors round numbers. Traditionally, meetings are scheduled in 30-minute increments, but not all require a half-hour or hour to complete. Some meetings could be concluded within 12 minutes. The time blocked off the calendar should directly reflect what is necessary for the discussion. Overlook the calendar aesthetic consisting of large blocks of color for smaller, more realistic, times.
It would be preposterous to assume all qualities of a meeting are controllable, but you should avoid fretting about what-ifs. Including additional time ultimately becomes its own self-fulfilling prophecy. Eight additional minutes will become eight minutes wasted with non-practical banter. If you are looking to salvage those 8 minutes instead, Skyscanner has an informative article about how replacing hour-long meetings with 22-minute ones has saved them 100 working days in a year!
It Is Important to Monitor Your Meeting Time Closely
If a meeting is expected to take more than an hour, the reality is that the group is likely not prepared to convene, or that they are biting off more than they can chew. Avoid scheduling a meeting for more than an hour, and preferably refrain from scheduling one for over 30 minutes. A substantial chunk of time provides the illusion that you have little pressure to establish the conversation and identify a solution. This frequently results in the over estimation of time.
Keeping meetings short supports efficient use of time and compels the group to genuinely concentrate on the topic at hand. A group remains engaged in conversation when there is pressure to conclude the meeting sooner rather than later. Additionally, everyone attending is expected to have prepared beforehand. The attendees should be able to focus on the principle topic rather than initially learning about it.
Sometimes unforeseen issues arise, and meetings go over the allocated time. When an hour is quickly approaching, that is the perfect time to request a time-out and schedule another session at a later date for further discussion. Rather than wasting time by quarreling in a conference room, this allows for individuals to contemplate what was debated, refine their own ideas, and prepare for the next meeting. Do not allow the next session to consume another hour.
Why You Should Set a Precedent for Meetings
Start by specifying what variety of meeting this will be as well as the topic of discussion. Announce that this is “a 20-minute brainstorming session to openly discuss new product names,” or, “an informational 12-minute assembly about the new service we are implementing. Please hold your questions for the end.” Declare this information when sending out the scheduler, and again at the beginning of the meeting. This alleviates confusion, refreshes the group’s memories, and assists the team with concentrating on the topic.
Ensure that the set precedent is appropriate for the type of meeting. If the goal is to be interactive, it likely requires more time for open conversation, brainstorming, and creative thinking. If the intention is to disseminate information, it should be shorter and consist of limited participation from the audience. Alternatively, “this meeting will be 10 minutes long. We will be informing you all of how recent budget cuts will affect every employee’s benefits package. No questions will be allowed,” may not be an appropriate system for such a topic.
Printing an Agenda for a Meeting Is Beneficial
Print out a one-page bullet point agenda for each person attending the meeting. Preparing an organized agenda assists you and the team with staying focused and managing time. The agenda should consist of bullet points that specify the items of discussion. When you are familiar with the key points, and know the respective allotted times, you can confidently work through the sequential points and stay on topic.
Avoid including excessive amounts of information or lengthy descriptions of each topic. Avoid situations where your audience may be too preoccupied with perusing the agenda, rather than focusing on the information you are presenting at the moment. Less Meeting has seven tips for making the perfect agenda. Not everyone will consider bringing stationery with them for annotation, so providing a printed page allows the team to record notes throughout. This allows individuals to leave with their own summary of the meeting; additionally, handwritten notes are often easier to remember.
Being environmentally conscience is crucial for any company nowadays. Abstain from wasting an entire sheet of paper for a modest agenda with just four bullet points. Providing that the agenda is small enough to fit on less than half a page, a good decision would be to print multiple agendas on one page and divide the page in order to reduce the use of paper. Remember to confirm that the divided pages will still have enough space for people to record their own notes.
Hold the Entire Team Accountable for What Was Discussed During a Meeting
Meetings are conducted in order to produce a united group decision or to provide a team with vital information. When it concludes, the entire team should have an answer to the question that was initially proposed at the meeting. An appropriate response may change depending on the topic, but the point is that the group gathered for a purpose, and that it answered an important question.
A dependable rule of thumb is that each meeting should conclude with a resolution to the following questions: What result(s) or decision(s) did the group select, and how will we accomplish it? What is the initial phase we are managing, and which individuals in the group are accountable for providing the various information and work for the next step(s)? What are realistic time phases for completion?
Optimistically, all of these questions were provided with comprehensive answers during the course of the meeting. Realistically though, not all questions will have a resolution. When this occurs, the question “where should we start first?” becomes the query with the highest level of significance. The team should not abandon the room until they are capable of acknowledging an official response to this question. It is imperative that the entire group feels confident in understanding the next phase of the process so that they are able to act accordingly. All individuals from the group should be able to provide identical responses on the conclusion of the meeting.
More Efficient Meetings Do Not Include a Recap
Everyone who requires information from the meeting recently attended and should have a comprehensive understanding of what was reviewed, what their responsibilities are, and when their tasks are due. If they second guess themselves at a later time, they even have a printed agenda and can refer to their own notes. Do not waste your own valuable time by transcribing what was just discussed. Doing so only eliminates accountability for the rest of the team. When employees are aware there will be no recap sent out afterwards, it compels them to pay more undivided attention to the conversation discussed.
Great ideas stem from groups that are more diverse with their opinions and experiences, because they are not always in agreement. Having a balanced group can really open up the discussion floor during a meeting and can result in vibrant ideas! These are the types of ideas that differentiate your company from the competition because no other office has that exact group of individuals. This potential can only be unlocked if there is true purpose to having the meeting in the first place.
When meetings are efficient, more individuals actually see purpose in attending, and they will find that not only do they have more hours in their work day, they also have less interruptions throughout the day. Employees may be more productive and content while at the office because they feel that their time is being considered important.
Executing meetings that are both impactful to the entire team and also help drive results. If you are wanting more information to ensure that your next one is meaningful, Inc.com has a great article complete with nine things that good leaders never do when running a meeting.