Do you ever feel like meetings are one more obstacle between you and actually getting work accomplished? Meetings — even the more productive ones! — can sometimes feel like just one more thing in your already full calendar. A report that examined more than 19 million meetings found that professionals spend an average of two hours a week in pointless meetings, adding up to over $541 billion in wasted resources. Yikes!
However, meetings don’t have to be a time drain. With the right parameters, you can run better meetings at work, for a nonprofit you love or even for important matters in your home. These five key insights on meetings will change the way you and your team work for the better.
1. Prepare accordingly.
Hundreds of scientific studies on meetings agree that the success of a meeting is greatly determined by the preparation beforehand. Think about it: without a plan, there’s no way to tell when you’re going in the right or wrong direction. By taking a few minutes to prepare for a meeting, you’ll significantly decrease the odds that it becomes a major waste of time.
Start by assessing current needs and the meeting’s ultimate goals. Is the purpose of the meeting to solve a problem, make a decision or have a substantive discussion? Then create the agenda to share with your team before they arrive. Include any deliverables you’d like team members to prepare in advance, plus target time frames for each piece of your agenda. When you’re all on the same page about the goals of a meeting, and how long each should take, it’s much more likely that you’ll stay on task without getting distracted.
2. Stand up for better teamwork.
Ever been in a meeting so boring you wish you could take a nap in the comfort of your big conference room chair? You’re not alone. While comfortable, chairs could actually be holding you back from working successfully as a team.
Research shows that teams were far more creative and excited about their work when they were standing instead of sitting. The act of standing in a non-traditional meeting space also made team members less likely to become protective and territorial about their ideas. And, if you work remotely, the same hack works for a conference call. Taking the call from the couch may be tempting, but standing up has the same effect and can encourage efficiency.
3. Never hold a meeting just to update people.
There’s nothing quite as frustrating as sitting through a meeting to absorb information that could have been communicated through a simple email. In his book Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, Paul Axtell recommends never holding a meeting with the sole purpose of updating team members. For the next meeting on your schedule, ask yourself: can all the information be just as easily conveyed digitally? Communicate updates via email, or film a quick video of yourself sharing updates directly. You might get back hours of your week by ensuring that your meetings truly need to be meetings.
For meetings consisting of mostly updates and a handful of action items, try a consent agenda. The leader prepares an agenda package ahead of time, including all necessary notes, and participants arrive having reviewed everything in advance. At the start of the meeting, participants share if they’d like to discuss any consent items further. Ultimately, most items get a simple thumbs up — cutting meeting time in half.
4. Directly encourage participation.
As a leader, your ideas hold weight. Rather than immediately sharing your take, hold back your thoughts for a moment and ask specific team members for their point of view. You may uncover creative ideas that wouldn’t have been shared. This helps people feel included and valued so they enjoy their work.
As for those few people who typically dominate the conversation? Don’t hesitate to call on the less dominant individuals to share ideas. Consider who might have subject area knowledge or be most affected by the outcome. Your team members will feel more appreciated, you’ll gain a greater diversity of insight and the most vocal participants will see the value in limiting the chatter.
5. Get feedback from your team.
The single best way to run better meetings is to ask your team for feedback. The British Psychological Society found that when team members were asked for feedback and their suggestions were implemented, motivation and sense of purpose in meetings improved.
Send an anonymous survey to your team to get their input on how meetings could be more productive. You may find that one simple change transforms the efficiency of your meetings and the satisfaction of your team.
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