How many of us sit through hours of pointless meetings every week, while deadlines loom and our already extensive to-do lists grow? A lot. In fact, it’s in the US alone, the National Statistics Council estimates that 37 per cent of an employee’s time is spent in meetings. Worse still is the fact that 47 per cent of employees consider meetings to be the biggest waste of time during their working day. The bad news is that while we can all probably reduce the number of meetings we attend drastically, there are precious few businesses that can scrap them altogether. The good news? However, if conducted correctly, meetings can be both productive and beneficial. Here’s how to make the most of meetings (when you have to have them):
1. Set the agenda in advance
It’s time to scrap the vague ‘catch up’ meeting requests – be clear about the objective of the meeting well in advance. This gives people the opportunity to carefully think through any points they want to discuss. Do attendees need to come armed with ideas or feedback? Let them know exactly what is expected of them before you sit down. This will cut down any on the spot bluffing and to put it plainly: ain’t nobody got time for that.
2. Triple check your attendees
Does everyone invited really need to be there? Is there anyone missing? Keeping numbers to a minimum will lower the potential for the meeting to become derailed, but having to repeat the take home points to an absent member of staff is a totally avoidable waste of your time.
3. Practise a pre-meeting mindfulness exercise
Yes, you absolutely do have time for this. Make like Google and Apple – to name but a few – and start your meeting with a simple breathing exercise that will help relax and focus attendees. You will be rewarded for the few minutes out of your meeting it takes to perform this exercise with present, switched on staff who make considered contributions. If you feel self-conscious about leading a mindfulness exercise, let headspace.com or similar do the work for you.
4. Start the meeting on time
This is so simple, but it’s a biggie. If you arrive late to a meeting you have scheduled, it shows a lack of respect for your fellow attendees. This is not conducive to a productive meeting. What’s more, if you don’t start on time, the chances are your meeting will either run late or be cut short. Which means you’ll probably have to reschedule another meeting to finish discussing what you couldn’t today, which was basically just a time wasting exercise. Frustrating, isn’t it?
5. Stay on topic
The purpose of the meeting isn’t to just to chew the fat for predetermined amount of time – you came here to discuss something in particular so stay on topic. It’s inevitable that other points will be raised that threaten to derail the meeting so, in this instance, acknowledge that this is something that needs to be addressed at a later date, but remind everyone that you’re here today to talk about X, Y and Z.
6. Keep it brief
Just as you set a start time, set a finish time and try stick to it. Not having an allocated time slot will encourage off-topic ramblings and before you know it you’ll be stumbling out of the meeting room, blinking into the daylight, wondering where the last five hours of your life just went. Having a time restraint will make your meeting more productive – fact.
7. Make a clear conclusion
No one should leave the meeting without an action plan or a clear idea of what needs to be done next. You want your employees to leave the room with clarity and a renewed sense of purpose. If you have the resources to do so, have someone take minutes and email attendees with the details of the follow up tasks required. This way you know everyone is singing from the same song sheet.