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Just because you’re at work doesn’t mean you’re getting work done. Meetings take up a good part of the workday, yet they’re frequently unproductive. A 3M Meeting Network Survey found that 25-50% of the time that people spend in meetings is wasted. Pointless meetings kill productivity and prevent us from doing the work we ought to be doing.
There are good meetings and then there are bad meetings. Good meetings will leave your employees feeling motivated and energized about their work. One thing that all effective meetings have in common is a clear purpose.
When deciding whether or not to have a meeting, ask yourself what you want to accomplish in the meeting. What outcome do you want to achieve by having the meeting? A meeting must have a specific objective in order to be successful. Avoid having meetings just to get status updates or for other vague reasons. The following are some examples of clear meeting objectives:
• Find a solution to a problem
• Seek input from others regarding an issue
• Arrive at a decision regarding a particular matter
• Alert team members to a change or make an announcement
Once you clearly define the end result you want to achieve by having a meeting, you can plan the scope and structure of the meeting and determine exactly who needs to be there. Be sure that your meeting has no more than three action items.
Only invite people who are equipped to participate in the meeting. It’s important for meeting participants to feel like they have the skills and expertise to be of assistance. Otherwise, they’ll feel like they’re wasting their time. Furthermore, try inviting fewer participants because the more participants there are, the less productive the meeting is likely to be.
To ensure that you cover all the necessary points in a meeting, create an agenda. An agenda will help you stay on target and could include information about the following:
• Meeting priorities and topics you plan to cover
• Sequence in which you will cover the meeting topics
• End result you want to accomplish
• Time you will spend discussing each topic
• Date and time the meeting will take place
• Location of the meeting
Email the meeting agenda to participants in advance. Use the meeting agenda as a guide to keep you on track throughout the meeting. You can even put the agenda on a whiteboard or screen for everyone to see and to help keep them focused. If you notice that you’re running out of time to discuss a particular topic, consider pushing a decision, deferring the discussion for another occasion, or assigning it to a subcommittee for further discussion.
Always start your meetings on time, regardless of who is late. Don’t brief any late participants on what they missed, and don’t let people who are more than 15 minutes late join the meeting. At the very beginning of the meeting, be sure to clearly state the objective and desired outcome.
You should also end your meetings on time, even if you’re not finished discussing what’s on your agenda. End early when possible to make people feel more positive about attending your meetings. Making an effort to start and end your meetings on time shows your colleagues that you value their time. Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid scheduling a meeting that lasts longer than an hour because workers don’t remain engaged for any longer than that.
Don’t let people use laptops or phones while they’re in the meeting. If people are fiddling with their smartphones, they won’t be focused on the meeting – they’ll be surfing the web or sending emails instead. Ban technology in meetings to maximize productivity.
As the meeting leader, it’s important to ensure that you get input from everyone present. If there are certain people dominating the conversation, make it a point to ask the quieter people for their ideas and feedback. Make sure the meeting stays on topic and close the meeting with an action plan, so everyone leaves knowing what the next steps are.
After the meeting is over, send all participants a follow-up message with a memo highlighting what was discussed. Send this follow-up message within 24 hours of the meeting. The memo should summarize the next steps and list out all tasks that were generated by the meeting, noting who needs to complete what tasks and by when. Creating a written record of what transpired in a meeting is crucial because everyone interprets things differently.
Planning and running effective meetings requires structure and order. Follow the steps above to develop a clear objective and agenda, and encourage the active participation of all meeting attendees. Using resource scheduling software like Add-On Products’ Resource Central can also help you plan and run effective meetings by streamlining the process of finding and booking a meeting room, inviting attendees, and ordering all extra services, such as catering and audiovisual equipment. Schedule a free trial or free online demo of Resource Central today.