7 tips to make meetings more productive

Most people will have experienced being in an unnecessary meeting at some point in their working lives. Some may have traveled across the country to attend a one hour meeting which could have been a much more efficient conference call. But have you ever considered how much these meetings could be costing your business? One study revealed that the average worker in the UK spends 10 hours 42 minutes each week preparing for and attending 4.4 meetings. Another survey revealed that employees found 56% of meetings unproductive, with 66% admitting they make excuses in order to avoid meetings.

Employees of all seniority levels appear to agree that meetings can be an ineffective use of time. This is particularly evident at senior management level, where a higher proportion of the working day is typically spent in meetings. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, 65% of the 182 senior managers interviewed said that meetings keep them from completing their own work, with 71% saying that meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

With such a high proportion of people feeling that the majority of meetings are inefficient, it’s surprising that they’re still so frequent in everyday working life. While the answer may not be to cut meetings out of the business completely, there are ways in which they can be made more productive.

  1. Is a meeting really necessary? The first thing to consider is whether a face to face meeting is really essential. Often, simple business challenges can be solved with an email chain or a quick conference call. This could save on the potential wasted time and resource of a face to face meeting.
  2. Are all attendees needed? It’s tempting to invite as many people as possible to a meeting in order to get a mixture of different view points. However, this can prove to be an unproductive use of people’s time if they don’t necessarily need to be in attendance. If this is the case, you could send round a post-meeting summary email to those who didn’t attend in order to keep them in the loop of the meeting outcomes.
  3. Reduce the time. If a face to face meeting is needed, try to block out less time in the diary than you normally would. Most people allocate an hour for a meeting as a default. However, you could analyse the meetings that you’re having currently and monitor at what point people’s concentration levels start to dip and the meeting becomes less productive.
  4. Set an alarm. If you decide to cut meetings down to 30 minutes, set a timer and make sure that the time is adhered to. This will hopefully prevent the meeting from over running while ensuring that all the key points are still discussed.
  5. Create an agenda. Meetings can have a habit of going off course, with the main focus point often being forgotten. Creating an agenda can be an effective way of keeping the point of the meeting front of mind. The meeting should also have a moderator who ensures that the discussion sticks to the areas on the agenda. If possible, share the agenda with the meeting participants ahead of the meeting so they’re aware of what will be discussed and can prepare any notes if needed.
  6. Action points. To help make sure that the meeting is as productive as possible, run through the key action points at the end of the meeting and assign them to attendees if needed. The action points should also be communicated in the post-meeting email summary so everyone is aware of the next steps.
  7. Embrace pen and paper. Laptops are becoming more and more prevalent in meetings. While some people will see them as the most effective way of taking notes, they could actually be hindering concentration levels. The temptation to answer emails as they pop up on the screen can distract from the meeting itself. Colleagues may also become irritated with the tapping of the keyboard. You could look to restrict people from bringing laptops into meetings. Instead, encourage them to bring an old fashioned pen and paper if they’d like to take notes.

In small businesses, time and resources can be limited. Any time wasted due to inefficient meetings can really impact the business. It can therefore be beneficial to review current processes when it comes to the meetings taking place in the business, and identify any areas where meetings could be improved or made more efficient. While a certain level of meetings is still important , quality over quantity may result in them being much more useful and efficient.

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