Meetings – Just Discussion Time? How to Make Them Highly Effective

Something my old colleagues keep reminding me of is how passionate I am about the un-productive, time wasting plethora of meetings we attend… It really grinds my gears when meetings aren’t under control, with a clear agenda and goal. Not to mention being called into meetings because “maybe you should be there” Eh, what a waste of my time!!

Most if not all of us have once been in an unproductive meeting. You got there on time, had properly prepared yourself but somehow at the end of the meeting nothing worth while had been achieved. Simply put, the meeting was just a waste of your time and energy. But wait a minute, what went wrong? We needed that meeting right?

In my time I’ve been a part of a lot of “meetings” and there will be many more to come. Something I’ve grown more effective at is ensuring my time is spent valuably and that includes how I decide which meetings to have and how I can get the best outcomes from them.

There are a lot of factors which contribute to unproductive meetings. Meetings are not just for mindless chitchat and discussions. They are fundamentally designed to create unity of focus in pursuing company goals. However this will never happen if there are no ground rules that everyone in the meeting should follow.

Some of the vital issues that need to be addressed when setting up the ground rules for meetings include latecoming, distractions and punctuality. If you are sick and tired of constantly being part of unproductive meetings, below are 5 easy steps to turn things around.

1. Avoid letting it flow

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So simple but so overlooked! This one probably seems obvious, but how many times have you walked into the meeting with just a topic of discussion that allows the agenda to flow as needed? This is not an effective meeting strategy and is one of the main contributors to wasting time in meetings. First and foremost set an agenda for the meeting and send it out to all attendees at the time of booking or well before the scheduled time. Use the agenda to guide the outcome of the meeting. This will not only cut down your time in meetings, making them more effective but will also make your meetings highly practical, allowing you to achieve a tangible outcome from every meeting. To get the most out of your agenda, number the items 1 to 10 for example so you can give the important stuff the attention it deserves.

2. Shorten Your Attendee List

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A lot of times people make the mistake of inviting many people to a meeting. To ensure you have only the right people in the room, shorten you attendee list to only include the most important stakeholder’s for the project/task to your meeting. You should know that the more people there are in a meeting the longer the meeting is likely to be. It is comparably difficult to reach an agreement when more people are there than when there are fewer attendees.

Consequently, only call people who can contribute great ideas or decisions on the agenda. The rest can be emailed the decisions made and generally what has been agreed after the meeting is over.

3. Make The End Goal Clear

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Just like setting an agenda. If you’re leading the project or have called the meeting make sure you’re clear about what you want to achieved during that meeting. Do you want a decision? Are you looking for an action plan? Use your agenda to guide you to your goal. Pro Tip: For best results, make your goal clear in your agenda or right that the beginning of your meeting by stating “At the end of this meeting we will have achieved X”

4. Time is of The Essence

Meetings – Just Discussion Time How to Make Them Highly Effective

The number one characteristic of unproductive meetings is often poor time management. The meeting starts and ends late with nothing significant achieved. Therefore in order to encourage effective time management, first of all make sure the meeting starts and ends on time.

You should have provided all the attendees the agenda of the meeting early enough so they can prepare for the meeting. Always start with the most essential agendas to the least integral. Every agenda should be allocated a certain amount of time. You may want to additionally appoint someone to keep track of time and warn people accordingly when the time for discussing a specific agenda is running out.

The best meetings should be no more than 30-45 minutes long. Lastly, studies have found that stand-up meetings are often more productive and time conscious than the classical sit-down meetings.

5. Send the journey forward

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During the meeting, minutes should always be taken for record purposes. It’s also necessary that the minutes be distributed to the rest of the attendees or related important parties so that they can know what has been discussed and decided.

When the meeting is coming to an end, the leader (usually the meeting organizer) should always take time to clarify action tasks and appoint accountable parties to every task. This way, as you set the date for the next meeting (if needed), everyone will know what they are expected to accomplish before you meet next.

Not forgetting, using figurative language through charts and images is recommended as an effectual way of passing across lasting information. People often find it easy to remember what you said when they attached the message with a certain image. Finally, you can boost creativity during meeting discussions by avoiding conference room monotony and choosing new places to hold meetings at.

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