Meetings are an essential part of any business, yet many executives and managers are unhappy with the way meetings go and are at a crossroads as to how to run an effective meeting. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, only 17% of senior executives currently believe their meetings make effective use of individual and company time, and 65% claimed that meetings prevent them from doing their own work. However, the more positive news was that several organizations reported improvements in attitude once they made changes to their approach. This suggests that meetings are not the fundamental issue – it is the effectiveness of those meetings is the problem.
So, the question remains, what can be done to make meetings more effective to ensure they actually deliver on their intended goals, rather than draining company time and resources? Keep reading below for 4 tips that can help boost meeting productivity in the workplace.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan to Improve Meeting Productivity
One of the single biggest things to focus on when looking into how to improve meeting productivity and run more effective meetings is the planning process. After all, some meetings are unproductive simply because there is no real plan to follow, or because time is wasted handing out material that could have been sent to attendees in advance.
In a previous blog, The Complete Rundown: How to Run an Effective Meeting, some of the possible issues we highlighted included meetings not having a clear purpose and deviating too far from the topic at hand. With that being said, both issues have simple solutions based on planning. Essentially, you need to have a clear idea of what the goal of the meeting is and what topics need to be covered to achieve that goal. You also need to be willing to intervene in the discussion if it goes off on a tangent or starts to focus on things that are not relevant to the purpose of the meeting. This will then help to ensure the meeting achieves what it was intended to.
2. Consider Whether a Meeting is Actually Necessary
Going hand-in-hand with meeting planning, an overlooked aspect of poor productivity within meetings is the fact that many meetings are simply unnecessary. Therefore, it should become a best practice to consider carefully while planning your workplace meetings, if in fact, it is a meeting is really necessary and if so, who the required attendees are.
To do this, think about the purpose of the meeting and the outcome you are expecting. Could the same outcomes be achieved by sending an email or distributing material in another way? Do people need to be dragged away from their work, or could they be given the flexibility to take in the information at a more opportune time? Some meetings are vital, regardless of any disruption caused, but a large number could be avoided or at least kept short. Progress update meetings are one of the main offenders because the information could often be made available through other means, such as an email update, which take up far less time and cause far less disruption to work activities.
3. Upgrade Technology to Boost Meeting Productivity
Another key contributor to improving meeting productivity is an investment in the right technology. In particular, you want to make sure you are using reliable video conferencing software, along with top-of-the-range display technology, such as an interactive display with the latest features and solutions.
Crucially, technology has a role to play in both boosting productivity and hindering it. For example, it’s estimated that on average, around 8.7 minutes are wasted per one-hour meeting just on getting the meeting started. This is often the result of issues with meeting room tech, such as connecting to display technology that badly needs an upgrade. Yet, at the same time, findings from The Muse state that 92% of people admit to multitasking during meetings, with 69% of peoplw admitting to checking emails. Therefore, the balance here is upgrading necessary meeting technology while also potentially limiting unnecessary technology within the meeting to avoid distractions.
4. Focus More on Discussions Rather Than Lectures
Our last tip to improving meeting productivity is emphasizing discussions over more lecture-style meetings, when it is reasonable to do so. There may be times when someone needs to stand and deliver a presentation, but meetings are more productive when they are focused and inclusive, with everyone taking a more active role in the conversation.
Avoiding the lecture-style approach, whenever possible, can be especially important when meetings are being held remotely because it can be even easier for listeners to become distracted by their surroundings when only one person is doing all the talking. For this reason, you should try to ask questions and bring people into the discussion as much as you can. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, has gone even further, suggesting businesses should eliminate all large meetings, “unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience.” When you focus on smaller meetings, containing only those concerned, conversations are easier and more useful, while participants feel more included.
Summing It All Up
The issue of how to run effective meetings is a concern for any business looking to optimize overall performance, with meeting productivity being a key concern as many organizations are finding that their current approach causes unnecessary disruption, disengaged employees, and lackluster results.
Adopting best practices such as planning meetings properly ahead of time, using the right technology to minimize start-up times, and promoting conversations, rather than lectures, during meetings can keep people engaged and boost meeting productivity. Beyond this, you also need to think carefully about whether meetings are necessary in the first place and cut out the unnecessary meetings. For the meetings that are necessary, make sure you’re only including people in meetings who absolutely need to be there.