Making meetings more meaningful

Do you groan each time another meeting request pops into your inbox? Another pointless meeting designed to waste your time and put you further behind schedule on ‘proper’ work? Unfortunately, this is a popular mindset

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Robert Half 

A new study shows that 65% of senior managers feel that meetings keep them from getting work done; just under three-quarters (71%) said they felt meetings were unproductive and inefficient. 

Researchers at Georgetown have suggested that frequent interruptions, such as meetings, disturb ‘deep work’ described as our ability to mentally focus on a challenging task.

So, is it really possible to make meetings productive again? Here are a few changes you can make to your meetings to increase productivity and innovation, rather than leave the whole room wishing they were elsewhere.

Create an open forum

People are unlikely to feel inspired or motivated when they anticipate being talked over or not listened to. If you truly want to innovate in your meetings, make an effort to create an open forum in which all opinions are welcome and nothing is ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’. New ideas often come from unexpected places!

Introduce a laptop ban wherever possible

Laptops can be a great tool for meeting productivity , more often than not, they’re a distraction. It has been recognised that laptops are linked with a ‘task-switching’ mentality, rather than a ‘multi-tasking’ one. Meeting attendees only give half their attention to the meeting they’re in, while simultaneously using a laptop to work on other things. If your meeting can be done with pen, paper and discussion, try banishing laptops (and ‘phones) and see how it goes.

Ensure that an agenda is circulated in advance of the meeting

Without an agenda, it’s hard for meeting attendees to know what to expect. Let them know which points you’ll be hitting, what they’ll need to do in order to prepare and the input/action points you want to get out of it.

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Catch unproductive talk and steer it ‘offline’

Unfortunately, meetings have the capacity to turn into a forum for passive aggression and complaining; it’s also not uncommon for talk to turn off at a tangent which isn’t conducive to addressing the meeting’s agenda. If you find this happening ask attendees to meet about it separately at another time, while you continue with the original meeting outline.

Listen more

You’ve called a meeting to discuss an agenda, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also listen. If you’ve asked for input, give your meeting attendees room to articulate their ideas, thoughts and concerns – though take note of the above point, and don’t let people ‘witter on’ or wander off task or into anecdote.

Avoid last minute rescheduling wherever possible

Cancelling and/or moving a meeting last minute, or calling one with little notice, can hurt productivity as attendees have little chance to prepare and they may completely forget the meeting is happening! Avoid last-minute changes if you can help it.

Agree action points and deliverables before you adjourn

Before you call the meeting to a close make sure everyone understands what their action points are and when they need to be delivered by. Each attendee should be able to leave the meeting feeling that they’ve come away with a meaningful task and a clear set of expectations.

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