How to make the most of meetings

How to make the most of meetings

Whether you enjoy them or not, business meetings are a part of any manager’s job. Yet according to CBS News, surveys by consulting firms reveal that on average, professionals spend 31 hours each month in meetings that are unproductive while at the same time, almost three quarters of surveyed professionals do unrelated work during meetings.

These numbers show that meetings, which are intended to yield viable results that help move an organization forward, can be time-consuming and ineffective. So in order to make the most of your meetings, it’s crucial that you optimize your strategy. What follows are some tips that will help you make the most of business meetings.

1) Only hold a meeting when really necessary. Business News Daily reminds us that in a work environment where people are empowered to communicate effectively and make their own decisions, it can be more time effective to have one-on-one discussions than to hold team-wide meetings. So before assembling your team to spend an hour or so discussing just one or two matters, give some thought as to whether you really need everybody’s input. Reducing the number of meetings you hold can significantly increase the amount of time you and your team have available for hands-on work.

2) Determine the key players ahead of time. In most cases, you’ll require input from other team members who play key roles in the matters you’ll be discussing. Determine ahead of time who these key players are and what you need from them in order to run an effective meeting. Then contact them for any necessary information or assistance.

3) Prepare a brief that clearly states the objective of the meeting. In order to find viable solutions or make balanced decisions, all participants need to be informed about the purpose of the meeting. For example, if it’s time to decide between two proposed marketing strategies, clearly state that in the brief. This will prevent people from going off topic and discussing things that don’t relate to the matter at hand.

4) Prepare an agenda. Meetings are generally quicker and more effective when everybody knows what points are on the agenda. Once you’ve determined the purpose of the meeting, list out all the individual topics you’d like to discuss. That way, all participants can prepare their responses ahead of time.

5) Determine how to record what’s discussed. Though many people simply make the occasional note during a meeting, it can be helpful to have a complete record you can refer to later. Decide whether you want an administrative assistant to take minutes or if you’d prefer to make an audio or video recording of the meeting. Whatever you choose, remember to inform all participants at the outset if a meeting is being recorded.

6) Ensure punctuality. We’re all busy professionals, and meetings that start late or are interrupted due to late arrivals can frustrate people who have a lot of work to do. Set a specific time for the meeting and request that everybody shows up on time. Additionally, arrive early so you can prepare your materials and are ready to begin immediately at the set time.

7) Respect other people’s input. Unless you called a meeting simply to inform your team of a new development, you’ll most likely want input in order to find solutions. Create an environment where people are invited to contribute and feel respected for their input. By appreciating their insights in this manner, you engage them more and can enhance the chances of finding more innovative or productive solutions.

8) Keep meetings to under 45 minutes. In FastCompany, Connie Williams of Syneticsworld recommends keeping meetings short—even as short as 37.5 minutes. Her reasoning is that when people get out of a meeting early and have the feeling they accomplished something, they’re more likely to come back and participate effectively in future meetings.

9) Wrap up the meeting properly. At the end of the meeting, summarize the action points and decisions made, thank everybody for attending, and let them know how and when you’ll follow up. For example, if a proposition needs to be evaluated by the board of directors that meets once a month, state that you’ll send out an email with the decision the day after the board meeting.

Holding effective meetings requires a combination of adequate preparation, good managing skills, and practice. So keep these nine tips in mind, and see how they help you and your team make more of the meetings on your schedule.