On some level, we know that we spend too much time in meetings.
But do you know exactly how much?
According to research by Fuze, the answer is a lot. Middle managers are likely to spend about 35 percent of their time in meetings. Senior management can expect that number to be 50 percent. And that time translates into money. More than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings. The key word being “unproductive.”
The goal here isn’t to eliminate meetings. Organizations need meetings to get things done. The goal is to have highly productive meetings. The first step in conducting a productive meeting is purpose. There are only three reasons to hold a meeting:
1. Communicate information (i.e. staff meetings or board meetings)
2. Solve problems (an example is a brainstorming meeting)
3. Make decisions (for instance, budget meetings or safety meetings)
If the meeting agenda doesn’t communicate information, solve a problem, or make a decision, then maybe it’s time to look at another medium like email. How many times have you thought to yourself or heard someone say, “We didn’t need a meeting for that. They could have sent an email.”
5 Tips for Running a Productive Meeting
No matter what type of meeting you’re leading, there are some common elements to all meetings. These five items are the foundation for any productive meeting.
- Pay attention to logistics. This might sound very superficial, but things like comfortable chairs, WiFi, and refreshments matter. It shows that the meeting leader cares. The longer the meeting, the more important these items become. No one wants to spend an hour sitting in a terribly uncomfortable chair trying to make important business decisions. People will not be creative and innovative in a brainstorming meeting room that’s freezing cold. Enough said.
- Invite the right people. That includes the naysayers. The best way to determine who should attend a meeting is by the purpose. Who needs the information? Who can help us solve the problem? Who needs to be involved in the decision? As tempting as it may be to add extra names to the attendee list, just to be safe, resist the urge. Too many people can bog the meeting down. And speaking of bogging the meeting down, don’t avoid inviting someone because they’re well-known for playing the devil’s advocate. If they should be there, invite them.
- Give participants a role. The leader of the meeting doesn’t have to do everything. In fact, the role of a meeting leader is to get everyone involved. Prior to the meeting, ask other attendees if they will help out by keeping track of time, taking meeting minutes, etc. Giving participants a role keeps them engaged and involved. It also allows the meeting leader to stay focused on running the meeting.
- Document the meeting. Even when everyone takes notes, it’s important to have a single document of discussion, actions, and assignments. Consider using the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, actionable, responsible, and time-bound) as a meeting minute format. It can guide you through the meeting – What specifically needs to be done? How do we measure our success? List the actionable steps to accomplish. Who is responsible? When will it get done? Using a template can help get the minutes out quickly after the meeting.
- Follow-up. Once the meeting is over, that doesn’t mean the work is over. According to Harvard Business Review, the two things organizations need to do after every meeting is distribute meeting minutes and follow-up with participants about their tasks and deadlines. While work did take place during the meeting, the “real” work gets done in between the meetings.
The next time you lead a meeting, think about these steps. Call the meeting for the right purpose. Include all essential staff members. Make sure attendees are ready to work by giving them a meeting environment that encourages their participation. Hold them accountable with written notes of the meeting. Finally, support them after the meeting so they can be successful with their assignments.
Employees Want to Attend Productive Meetings
As a professional, one of the best skills to have is the ability to run a productive meeting. When meetings are productive, employees feel energized and accomplish their goals. But, great meetings involve proper planning and participation – before, during, and after the meeting.