Meetings, while essential to ensuring collaboration and gathering input from your team, can sometimes drain your team’s time and energy by being unproductive and unprofitable. This doesn’t have to be the case so I’ve put together a few tips for improving the efficiency of your meetings. By implementing these steps, your team will get more out of the meetings they attend and you will get better results from the discussions being had. No more dreading pointless meetings!
Create an Agenda
My number one tip for keeping meetings on track and productive is to come prepared with an agenda that clearly states the purpose of the meeting and the topics that need to be discussed. You should also make sure that you define what the meeting is about and, possibly more importantly, what it is NOT about. By doing this, you can easily deter any off topic or unrelated discussions that may come up in the meeting.
Agendas are also something you can templatize for meetings that you have on a regular basis. By having a rough outline of how the meeting should go and the topics that need to be covered, it makes the agenda creation process less daunting. All you’ll have to do is edit and customize the outline for the specific topic or project.
The Harvard Business Review has an article that provides some great tips on how to create a meeting agenda. One of my favorites is to “list agenda topics as questions” which enables meeting attendees to better prepare and clearly defines when a topic has been successfully addressed because the question will be answered. Another best practice is to “specify how members should prepare for the meeting” by distributing the agenda with plenty of time for them to compile their thoughts and ideas on the topics being addressed.
Keep the Team on Topic
Off topic conversation is probably the number one productivity killer for meetings. While it’s natural that additional ideas and concerns may arise during meetings, it’s vital to the effectiveness of your meeting that you stick to your planned agenda and purpose. While it may feel a little like herding kittens, as the meeting leader you are responsible for keeping the meeting on track, which may require you to stand firm to the agenda and be assertive with your team members when it comes to off topic conversation
A great way to table unrelated discussions is to create a “parking lot” for ideas that you want to revisit later but do not apply to the topic at hand. This can either be a place on the whiteboard or meeting agenda where you record ideas or concerns that, while they aren’t applicable to the current meeting purpose, are of value and great topics for a different time. This also makes sure your team members know that they are being heard and not just shut down if their comments aren’t directly related to the topic being discussed.
Evaluate and Optimize Your Meeting Cost
From a project management standpoint, this could be the most important tip you take away from this article. While collaboration is essential to the creative process and great for idea generation, it can be an operational efficiency nightmare. Before you invite team members to your meeting, consider who is absolutely necessary and who you can provide a recap to afterwards.
For example, if you have an hour long meeting with three team members with an hourly rate of $150 and a stakeholder whose hourly rate is $250, your meeting costs the company a whopping $700. If you can cut it down to just two team members and provide a recap to the other potential participants, you can effectively save $400. Consider leveraging the tools you have in your arsenal to avoid a negative return on meeting investment. Can this be handled via collaboration in a google doc or could you ask for thoughts and ideas via Slack? If so, avoid the meeting.
Avoid Conference Calls
Here at Mojo, we’re big on flexible work schedules and have a work-at-home-Wednesday policy that we all love. So for us, and any company with remote employees or multiple office locations, this tip is one of the hardest for us to incorporate.
According to a study conducted by the world’s largest conference call company, 65% of surveyed participants admitted that they have done other work while on a conference call. 63% send emails, over half have made food, and almost 50% have gone to the restroom on a conference call.
If you’ve read my previous blog, you know that multitasking is a huge productivity killer due to the mental shift needed to switch between two or more tasks. We’ve all done it: gotten on a conference call, muted ourselves and worked on other projects while only halfway listening to the conversation on the line. Because of this, we did not participate as fully or gain as much from the conversation as we would have if the meeting had taken place in person. While sometimes it is inevitable, if conference calls can be avoided, they should be.
We all want to make sure we’re utilizing our team’s time as efficiently and effectively as possible. By taking steps to make your meetings more productive, you will see a shift in profitability and morale surrounding collaboration within your team.