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Despite the need for meetings to be productive, research suggests that only 50% of business meeting time is compelling and engaging. There’s a saying, “meetings are where productivity goes to die,” — a sad reality for companies that don’t do them correctly.
A 2019 report found that professionals spend two hours a week in meetings they believe are pointless, equating to a waste of over $541 billion in employee time. On top of that, almost 40% of professionals believe unnecessary meetings are the highest cost to their organization. That’s not to mention that many meetings are often severely structured, poorly timed and ineffectively run.
But productive meetings are crucial for businesses. Meetings should be where real work gets done that delivers a tangible result — such as a plan, a decision or a collective understanding of the work ahead.
Here are five tips for business leaders to run a productive meeting.
1. You’ve determined that you need a meeting, so what makes it effective?
To have an effective meeting, you must first ensure the right people and departments are in attendance. I have found that organizers tend to over-invite participants to a meeting. These unneeded participants accept an invitation to a meeting they felt compelled to attend but didn’t need to, which results in lost productivity.
Once you have confirmed your required participants, make sure you establish and communicate a clear objective for the meeting so everyone can prepare accordingly.
Encourage participation and ask lots of questions. Each person in a meeting should participate in some way and be challenged to bring something of value to the discussion.
Pay attention to the folks who are not engaging. They could be communicating about their job satisfaction and whether they are even the right person for their position.
2. Have an agenda
An agenda is a critical yet often overlooked component of a successful meeting. Ideally, a recurring meeting has the same agenda to keep efficiency moving forward. You want the pre-work required for a meeting sent out ahead of time to give everyone a chance to review it before the meeting.
The meeting should be as conversational and action-step-focused as possible. Having an agenda serves as a compass to help you make sure the meeting can get back on track if it wanders.
However, suppose you spend time in the meeting reviewing data that should have been read in advance and not discussing questions about the data. In that case, you aren’t creating an optimal or productive experience.
It is best to distribute information about the meeting at least 24 hours in advance so participants can review it and prepare questions.
3. Start on time, end on time
Starting and ending on time is crucial to your team because it keeps everyone’s day on track. Plus, being mindful of start and stop times is a way to show your attendees that you respect and value their time. Starting and ending meetings at the designated time is crucial to communicating your care for your employees.
In addition, anything that requires technology or outside feedback should be handled before a meeting starts. A no-cell-phone rule during meaningful discussions is crucial to stay on task. If you are checking on other concerns during a meeting, you probably don’t need to attend that meeting. If you find more than a few people are distracted, you should question if the meeting was necessary in the first place.
4. Equip the right people with the proper purpose at the right time
Make it a point to gather issues ahead of time and leave the most time in your meetings to discuss these issues. Documentation is critical — a good meeting needs excellent notes. A lousy meeting has no follow-up discussion or documents.
The time of day for your meeting depends on your team. A strong business leader knows how their team operates and when they function at their best. For example, I have found that the last week of each month is not a very good time to engage in brainstorming sessions because my employees are trying to hit month-end numbers.
Find the right time, team and place for your meetings, and you will see better results.
5. Have a plan of action, accountability and deadlines
A meeting is not effective without action items and accountability. The meeting leader is responsible for assigning a diligent notetaker and holding the meeting participants accountable for the discussion’s action items and next steps.
If action items aren’t completed in a specific time, the leader has the right to question why and provide additional direction to complete it.
Companies and leaders that consistently do this will have productive meetings. Meetings at a set time and with a proper plan of action are crucial to communicating care to your employees and ensuring long-term productivity in your company.