Six basic tips for making meetings more productive
We’re not sure about you, but we‘re pretty certain that we’ve never heard anyone say that a meeting was “too short”. Meetings generally have a reputation for being drawn out time-wasters dominated by off-topic conversation and an overall lack of direction. However, the reality is that in most businesses, they’re a necessary evil as they’re used to resolve issues, pass along information to people and facilitate important discussions.
In the spirit of efficiency and brevity, follow this list of six basic tips for ensuring those meetings are productive and run like clockwork.
Give that agenda some extra love
One of the biggest problems behind unsuccessful meetings is the fact that right from the start, there’s a lack of direction. In order for a meeting to be the most productive it can be, there needs to be certain items driving it, so it’s important to map out an agenda beforehand that clearly states all the objectives. As the organiser of the meeting, it’s your job to ensure this is done thoroughly because the aim should be to spend more time now in order to save time later. If everyone knows what the goals of the meeting are, they’re far less likely to get distracted and lose interest.
Be ruthless when it comes to attendees
Ask yourself if that person really needs to be in the meeting or can they just be sent a simple follow up email afterwards? Having only the people whose presence is essential attend can definitely help the meeting run more smoothly. Only those people who are directly involved with the projects or tasks that are going to be discussed need to attend – this saves time and also means that fewer people will be disrupted having to attend a meeting that actually doesn’t involve them.
Start and end on time
Punctuality is really the key to effective meetings. Too much time gets wasted waiting for late comers and then because you’re more than likely going to have to recap once they eventually arrive, you’re going to end up wasting even more valuable time. What can you do? Ensure you start all your meetings exactly on time. Over time, people will start to get the message and make more of a concerted effort to be there on time so as to prevent themselves from suffering the constant embarrassment of being late. You’ll also develop a reputation for being prompt and people are bound to respect you more for this. Same goes for ending meetings – avoid running over time.
Halve your meeting time
All too often, meetings end up getting stretched out because too much time has been allotted in the first place (and the space usually gets filled with irrelevant chatter). If, for example, you think you need an hour for a meeting, try setting it for only 30 minutes. This should actually force things to get done faster as everyone will be more aware of the limited time frame. Of course, you don’t want to be rushing through the majority of your meetings because of this, so just play it by ear and see how you go. If you can get away with shorter meetings, that’s of course first prize.
Show up prepared
If you’ve arranged a meeting and there are materials or documents you’d like people to look at beforehand, then be sure to send them out in good time so that the attendees can familiarise themselves with the content (you can even forward the proposed agenda so people are aware of exactly what’s going to be discussed). This will also give people the chance to formulate questions and suggestions surrounding what’s on the agenda. It goes without saying that as an organiser of a meeting you need to show up prepared too so that you don’t waste time fumbling through things.
Address the most important things first
It’s always a good idea to address the things that are priorities first in case you do run out of time. If that does happen, then at least you know that the important things were covered. Having someone take notes during the meeting also helps because then afterwards, meeting minutes can be emailed to all the relevant parties recapping what was discussed and reminding people what they need to do following on from it. This can be a great way to keep track of the productivity levels of meetings as well as to allow everyone to keep their fingers on the pulse of any current projects.
Meetings really don’t have to be boring time-wasters that people dread. So long as they have clear objectives from the start and that they run like clockwork as much as possible, they’re bound to be productive, efficient and overall, effective.
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