Six Steps to More Successful Meetings
This summer, Americans witnessed a rare event—a solar eclipse. It occurred during the workday across the country. As a result, roughly 87 million people left their desks to step outside and cautiously view the phenomenon, accounting for an estimated $700 million in lost wages paid to employees during this time.
Astrological aberrations aside, there’s a significantly larger problem that is wasting our time and money every day: meetings. Each month, the average employee spends 31 hours in unproductive, inefficient meetings. Estimates put that lost productivity in the neighborhood of $30 billion annually.
Given the number of hours spent in meetings, it’s easy to imagine that people lose their focus. More than 90% of participants in a 2015 study admitted to daydreaming during a work meeting and missing important discussions, and more than 70% disclosed that they often bring other work to do during allotted meeting times.
But, complaining about meetings isn’t a productive use of time, either. Instead, we recommend a few tips for more effectively planning and hosting productive meetings:
1. Limit the invite: Holding a meeting with representatives from multiple departments? It’s not cost-effective or efficient to have more than the necessary number of people in attendance – just the appropriate decision-makers or a representative on their behalf. Send your invite to just one team member from each area, and note that other department members can be added or replaced at the discretion of their manager.
2. Include an agenda and meeting materials: Instead of wasting the opening minutes of your meeting explaining why you’ve gathered, send out a meeting agenda and relevant documents in advance to give attendees an opportunity to research the topic and goals. An agenda will also give you a chance to segment the meeting into different time slots and identify an owner for each topic. Added bonus: meeting guests can view your agenda in advance of the meeting and make sure the appropriate team members are in attendance.
3. Remember remote participants: If your meeting includes off-site or remote employees, set up visual and audio access for them, if appropriate. Log in and check the phone line a few minutes before the call begins. At kickoff, take attendance for participants in-person and remote. This will avoid confusion around who is speaking as the meeting progresses.
4. Take it offline: Don’t fall victim to meeting hijacking. If a topic requires the attention of only a sub-set of attendees, pause and suggest to take the conversation offline. For the sake of efficiency, everyone will thank you.
5. End early: A golden rule when hosting a meeting is to wrap up with enough time to give your attendees a few minutes back to their day. Trying to end five minutes early gives people an opportunity to check email, return a missed phone call, or address other urgent matters. Some companies have clocks that include red numbering between the 25- and 30-minute marks and the 55- and 60-minute marks to signal that time is running out. You can also use a cell phone timer to help remind you.
6. Take notes: Well-written notes serve to not only remind attendees of what was discussed and decided during the meeting, but also keep track of the follow-up tasks that were assigned to help meet project goals. Notes can even serve as a reference tool for those who weren’t able to attend the meeting in person. Electronically sending meeting minutes also creates a “paper trail” which can be referenced later in your project if needed.
Face-to-face meetings are often a great way to cultivate creativity and results for your project, and can be very successful when run effectively. Take these tips back to your team and begin the cycle of more productive meetings.