More frequent (and longer) meetings don't lead to more productive meetings. They actually represent greater inefficiency and time wasted for both the business owner and the staff.
For years, employers have been stymied by the dilemma of needing to convene staff meetings, but afterwards, having little to show for it. Too many things can go wrong: there's no focus to the gathering, one or two people tend to dominate the conversation, little or nothing gets decided, and employees leave the meeting feeling frustrated and unmotivated to address new issues.
As a result, there's a recent trend of shorter, streamlined meetings, which are both simpler to schedule and take up less time in the workplace. If you and your employees are still "stuck" in the long, fruitless meeting mode, here are six tips for more productive meetings that propel those involved to take action and move forward:
1. Always Have a Clear Goal
When sending out a meeting invitation, always describe the objective clearly. For example, "The goal of this meeting is to assign responsibilities for an upcoming client presentation."
2. Keep the Agenda Simple and to the Point
Your meeting invitation can also include an outline of specific topics to be covered. Alerting participants in advance enables them to better prepare for the meeting, doing any necessary research beforehand, so they arrive ready to contribute. (You can also request that attendees put together a brief summary of related activities or responsibilities.) At the same time, keep the agenda simple, including individual items that are clearly related to that agenda.
3. Be the Meeting Leader (or Appoint Someone to Lead)
A leaderless meeting is like a rudderless ship; once it gets started, there's little chance it will arrive at the hoped-for destination. Without someone in charge, either too many people jump in to "take charge," or no one does. Either way, the results are chaotic at best. But don't think of the meeting leader as someone who must dominate the proceedings, says Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends LLC. "On the contrary, it means making sure that everyone who has something to contribute gets their say."
4. Plan For a Meeting that Lasts Half the Time you Think it Should Take
Sounds counter-intuitive, right? But, as management expert Victor Lipman notes, "Meetings are like accordions—they stretch naturally to fill the allotted space." Recognizing this, Lipman suggests scheduling a half-hour meeting when your original intention was to take an entire hour. Given the time constraints, it's entirely possible you'll achieve your meeting objective in far less time than initially seemed possible.
5. Be Strict about Who Should Attend the Meeting
One common productivity-killer associated with meetings is having too many people in the room. This occurs because a manager or other executive believes everyone should be on hand so whatever is decided is instantly clear to the entire workforce.
The fact is, meetings often include employees who have little or nothing at stake in what goes on.
This leads to attendees retreating to their tablets or mobile devices, etc., which can be time-wasters and disrespectful of those who are there for a clear purpose. When setting up the meeting, take time to consider who really needs to be there in person and who can be notified later by email about what took place. Fewer attendees generally means shorter meetings.
6. Start Promptly Every Time
Meeting participants who show up later are a key factor in unproductive meetings, since the person in charge feels obliged to "catch them up" on what's already occurred. But if you're laser-focused on starting precisely on time, and not welcoming latecomers by name or offering them a brief summary, word will get out that it's a big mistake not to show up on time.
If you're frustrated by the frequency of meetings and a poor lack of results, these tips should help you improve the outcomes and alert employees that you value their participation, under specific and tightly enforced conditions. Then everyone can go back to work energized and ready to take action.