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How to make your meetings more productive

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Meetings are an integral part of the modern workplace. They help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and collaboration spurs projects forward by bringing together a diverse range of opinions.

The pandemic has changed the way meetings are run, with many of us seeing an increase in the number of virtual meetings, battling back-to-back calls and the need to create innovative solutions for hybrid meetings.

We all know the feeling of getting to the end of a long afternoon of back-to-back meetings and feeling like you haven’t had chance to start on your other tasks. Or having a busy week planned out ahead of us and suddenly another invitation pops into your inbox.

The easiest way to improve our productivity in meetings is to be more selective about the meetings we hold.

So, before you begin to look at the structure of the meeting itself, ask yourself whether it is necessary to have a meeting in the first place.

When NOT to have a meeting

1. Only one person will be speaking

Whilst it can be more convenient to gather everyone together to deliver a message, if only one person will be speaking this usually means that the information could be delivered in writing. Draft an email and allow the would-be attendees to read the information at a time that suits them and arrange a follow up meeting if people need the opportunity to have a discussion or ask questions.

2. You don’t yet have all of the information needed to make a decision

In this case, the result is usually that another meeting needs to be scheduled once the information has been gathered. Save everyone the time and hassle by sending a quick update and postponing the meeting until you are able to provide all of the information needed.

3. You’re wanting to generate ideas

Collaboration can kill creativity. Studies have shown that people produce more ideas, more unique ideas and better overall ideas when working alone when compared to working in a group. In fact, the larger the group, the fewer the amount of ideas that get generated. Use this knowledge to your benefit and ask attendees to prepare some ideas beforehand and then arrange a meeting to further develop and build on these.

If you’ve decided your meeting is necessary, then your next step to achieving productive meetings is having an awareness of the key barriers standing in your way.

What makes meetings less effective?

1. A lack of preparation

When attendees aren’t able to prepare for the meeting beforehand, a lot of time can be wasted ensuring that everyone is up to speed and familiar with the facts. While a brief recap can be useful, rehashing the full background is not an effective use of time for those who have already familiarised themselves, it only delays the decision-making process and crushes our productivity.

2. Having the wrong people

Research shows that the more people who attend a meeting, the greater the loss in productivity. Furthermore, no one appreciates their time being wasted at a meeting they didn’t need to attend. Missing key decision makers or having unnecessary attendees can lead to the decision-making process becoming overcomplicated.

3. Not having clear boundaries

Whether it’s talking over each other, sneaky emails or late arrivals, not having clear boundaries can cause significant disruption that not only delays decision making but wastes everyone’s time.

So, what can you do to help avoid these pitfalls?

Luckily for you, we’ve put together an effective meeting checklist to help you lead a meeting effectively.

Effective meeting checklist

1. Define the purpose of the meeting

Make sure you’ve set clear objectives around what needs to be achieved, as this will help you to make sure that the meeting is necessary and helps to keep things on track. Make these tangible and measurable to allow you to effectively reflect on your progress and motivate everyone to engage.

2. Set a meeting agenda

Send out the agenda and any additional information in good time. Consider how long each item may take to avoid making the meeting any longer than necessary. Ensure that you’ve clearly communicated any preparation required to ensure time in the meeting is utilised efficiently. This gives people the opportunity to make suggestions and think things through and potentially solve any simpler problems beforehand, meaning time in the meeting can be better spent on those complex issues.

3. Consider attendees

Limit the invite list to those whose work is directly related to the topic of discussion. Make sure you understand everyone’s role and how they can contribute and don’t forget to make sure your key decision-makers are available.

4. Get off to a strong start

Begin by reiterating the purpose of the meeting, your expectations and boundaries. If the meeting is virtual, always opt for cameras on.

5. Encourage Engagement

Communicate clearly and give everyone the opportunity to participate. Model active listening and gently observe whether everyone is engaged. If someone can afford to be answering emails throughout the meeting, then it’s worth questioning whether the subject was relevant to them, the meeting is going off on a tangent or if there’s another cause.

6. Follow Up

Be sure to share a summary of the discussion and any action points, including who’s responsible. People often forget the commitments they made once the meeting has ended but a recap can also be useful for those who were not able to attend.

Creating Good Habits

Creating good habits that keep meetings productive by respecting each other’s time, and supporting each other with the things we each need to be successful, will help to develop trust within your team and make meetings a more positive experience for everyone.

To talk about our Creating Good Habits Insight Sessions, our effective meeting sessions or speak about our team development tailored programmes get in touch.

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