Out of every possible distraction at work — including chatting with friends, checking your social media, and taking long breaks — 47% of workers stated that meetings were their biggest time waster. With the number of meetings rising year after year, many people are finding their weeks being taken up by unnecessary meetings.
In this article, we’ll be covering these foundational meeting topics:
Let’s get right into it.
Many articles that cover key features of a good meeting generally repeat the same few ideas about what makes meetings bearable. While these factors are important, you probably already know about them if you’ve run a meeting or two before. We’ll touch on them very briefly to make sure you’re in the know.
The most effective meetings will:
This five-pillar system is where the majority of effective meeting articles stop. The most essential of these is having an agenda, which outlines all the steps that your meeting will take. If you notice that your next meeting doesn’t have an agenda, you’re most likely going to be walking into a meeting that isn’t worth your time.
We want to make sure that your meetings are as effective as possible, which is why we’ve built a tailored list of out-of-the-box ways of making your meetings better than before.
Once you’ve got the fundamentals down, written your meeting agenda, and encouraged active listening and communication, many people hit a wall with their meetings. While you can incorporate a post-meeting survey that allows you to actively work on things that your team members didn’t particularly enjoy, there are also some other tactics you can try out.
To conduct successful meetings and cut back on the number of unproductive meetings you’re having, try these four ideas:
Let’s break these down further.
Overcrowding is one of the hidden issues that many people discover within meetings. If too many people are invited to the meeting, two things may happen. First, if the meeting is for brainstorming purposes, it will take significantly longer to finish as more people need to take turns to share their ideas. If the people you’ve invited to the brainstorming session haven’t worked on this type of project before, they may not have any particularly radical ideas that others haven’t already thought of.
Secondly, meetings with lots of people involved can actually reduce the flow of conversation. Many assume that with more people in a meeting, conversations can happen more easily. But, this isn’t actually always the case. Considering that 50% of workers identify as introverts, many people don’t particularly like speaking up in meetings.
This social anxiety intensifies when you have an even larger number of people within the meeting, with some workers feeling too nervous to actually share their opinions. Due to this, meetings can be more effective when cut your numbers down significantly.
One easy way of doing this is to go down the list of employees you’re going to invite and write down a reason that you want them participating in that particular meeting. For a few people, it’s likely that you won’t be able to think of one. Don’t feel bad; you’re actually going to be saving them time and mental energy.
If you cut the numbers on your invite list, you’ll be shocked at how many people start actively participating, express interest in the meeting, and are willing to share their ideas. Smaller groups are the way to go.
One of the key meeting killers includes when a meeting is kept running too long, and especially when it goes over the allotted time. Parkinson’s Law states that any task will expand to fill the time you set to do it. For example, if you set aside two hours for a meeting, you’ll leisurely work through the agenda items and finish on time.
Knowing this, you’ll actually want to flip this rule on its head, getting rid of any wasted time by scheduling your meeting within a tighter time period. If you think the meeting will take 15 minutes, schedule 10. If you think it’ll take half an hour, schedule 20. Just make sure that you take your own time limit seriously and cut off the meeting once you hit the allotted time.
This tactic feeds directly back into our first tip of inviting fewer people. If you’re trying to pack in every agenda item into a slightly shorter period of time, you’ll have to be efficient and won’t fall into off-topic conversation patterns or side discussions.
The moment the meeting starts, the time pressure is on. This style of meeting breeds effective meeting management as you have to stay on track the whole time.
When you imagine a meeting, you most likely envision of a small office space where you and your employees meet to click through a PowerPoint presentation. If you had something similar in mind, your meetings might be suffering from dullness.
Now we’re not suggesting that every meeting has to be a jam-packed, hilarious gathering of all your most entertaining coworkers. But, the very least you can do to keep things entertaining is to change the format of your meetings from time to time.
Instead of flocking to the same conference room where you go through the same motions, why not try and change the format and agenda of your meetings? Instead of a sit-down meeting, for instance, try out a stand-up one. A stand-up meeting, also known as a huddle meeting, is where you get everyone to conjugate around one site while standing.
These meetings are often more fast paced (as no one wants to have to stand around for a long time), making sure that you minimize the opportunity for ineffective conversations to make their way in. Both the change in body language and the casualness of a stand-up meeting create a sense of psychological safety that can inspire more of your employees to speak up.
You can also solicit feedback from your team and ask if they would like to try an off-site meeting. These can be incredibly beneficial for some teams, with the new environment inspiring open discussion and the free flow of ideas.
While having a key goal within your agenda is a fairly standard idea, starting at the end of your meeting is one of many commonly overlooked meeting strategies. Think about what you actually want to get out of your meeting. Is it a new perspective on a topic, the next steps of a project, or just generating new ideas?
Depending on what you’re actually looking to get out of your meeting, you’ll be able to more effectively set it up for success. By starting with your end goal and imagining what a successful meeting would look like to obtain it, you’ll be able to work backwards and answer specific questions.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Starting at the end and working backwards with these guiding questions will allow you to effectively plan your meeting. This is a win-win situation, as you’ll be able to create a more effective agenda based on specific reasons.
This final tip will cut down on the number of useless meetings that you run, tighten your agenda, help you work out exactly what a good meeting looks like to you.
From meeting preparation to setting ground rules, the way you conduct your regular meetings needs to shift in order to keep your attendees on their toes. Instead of focusing on getting every team member you have into your meetings to make sure they’re on the same page, trust your team with a bit of independence.
While regular meetings are essential, they don’t have to take nearly as long as you think they should. Instead, try running your meetings for shorter periods of time and inviting only those who are absolutely necessary.
Running effective meetings also means changing up the format from time to time. Whoever is in charge of meeting management will thank you, as will your team members suffering through their tenth meeting of the week on Wednesday morning.
By incorporating these tips into your daily work structure, you’ll be well on your way towards running an effective meeting - every single time.
A downloadable checklist, plus tips for preparing for your next important meeting.
Having a hard time keeping your meeting attendees engaged? Try out these tactics to start your next meeting on the right foot.