We’ve all had the experience of sitting in a work meeting, trying to keep our eyes open and thinking about all the things we still have to do. The fact is, meetings are so often unproductive. They take time out of the work day, distract workers, and can break up your work day in a bad way.
But they don’t have to be that way. There are many ways to turn your meetings from unproductive time-wasters to important places of growth and development.
Try these tricks next time you have to schedule a meeting and you’ll see the difference.
Be Strict About The Time
Being strict about the timing of your meeting, from starting on time to sticking to a time limit, is the first way to shift your meetings so they’re productive. It’s completely appropriate to not allow people to participate if they are more than 15 minutes late. At that point, they could simply distract from the flow of the meeting, rather than contribute to it.
You should also aim to keep your meeting on a strict time limit. 30 minutes is a good rule of thumb for most meetings. Keeping it short will keep it from wasting valuable time that your employees could use to complete their assignments.
Send Materials In Advance
At least 48 hours before your meeting, you should send out your agenda and any materials your employees will need to participate in the meeting. That gives them plenty of time to come up with some pertinent thoughts and ideas to contribute to the meeting. It’ll also help you skip any time used to catch people up and will lead to a more meaningful discussion.
Decide Who Comes
Have you ever had the experience of sitting in a meeting, asking yourself, “Why am I here?” Many times, we overpopulate our meetings with people who don’t actually need to be there. By adding more and more people to the meeting, you have more of a chance to lose control of the room and distract from work that could be getting done.
Instead, keep your meeting to about seven to nine people. Of course, this recommendation depends on the size of your team. If you have a team of 15 people who all need the information you’re relaying, you should obviously invite all of them. But whenever possible, cut down the attendee list for a better result.
Prepare Your Agenda Ahead Of Time
One of the easiest ways for a meeting to become unproductive is to lack an agenda. Without an agenda, your meeting will be like hiking in the wilderness without a map: aimless, wandering, and directionless.
What you should get in the habit of doing is developing your meeting agenda well in advance of the meeting. This is some of the crucial information you should send out in advance. It will help your employees know what to expect and keep your meeting on track.
Focus On After The Meeting
Your preparation for the meeting doesn’t end with the meeting. After the meeting, you still have things to do. Once your employees leave the meeting, if they forget everything that was discussed and decided, then the meeting was pointless. That’s why you need to put some of your attention to the time after the meeting.
During the meeting, decide on the things that need to be done. Be clear about the expectations, who will complete the tasks, and when there will be follow up. Not only will this help engage your employees, it will give the meeting purpose. It’s also a way to prepare for your next meeting where you will follow up on those action items.
Following the meeting, send a follow-up and details or a summary of the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, let your employees know that you’ll be doing this so they don’t feel like they have to take notes, as that can distract them from what’s being discussed. Shortly after the meeting has ended, like later that same day, send the follow-up and summary of the meeting, highlighting any action items that were discussed. This will give your employees a way to reference the topics discussed and something to refer back to if they have questions.
Give Them A Way Out
Have you ever been invited to a meeting that was mandatory but that conflicted with another obligation or that was taking place on one of your busiest days? Those are the meetings where you’d be so distracted thinking about your other tasks that you might as well not be there. A good practice to get into is giving your employees a way out of attending the meeting if needed.
Because you’ll be sending out a meeting summary, your employee may not need to attend the meeting if there’s a better use of their time. Be flexible and cognizant of the weight of your employees’ other tasks. If those projects are more important than the 30 minutes you’ll spend in the meeting, let them bow out. It will pay off in the long-run as they accomplish their projects well and on time.