With the number of meetings we hold every day, it can be astonishing how little work actually gets done. Meeting with your whole team may seem like a productive way to keep things moving forward, but not all meetings are created equal. If you don’t go into a meeting with a game plan, you’re might just find yourself in a too-long conversation going…nowhere.
So consider these 7 tips to make your meetings more productive, make your team more productive, and make your business more successful.
1. Know and communicate your meeting goal.
A team leader should never go into a meeting without a concrete, specific goal in mind for what they want to accomplish. According to Forbes, “A simple statement of what you hope to achieve can shave an average of 17 minutes off your meeting.”
When you reach your stated goal, the meeting is over. You don’t have to sit around with your team, wondering if you’ve done what needed to be done.
2. Set a time limit.
Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This is true of your meetings – the more time you give your team to achieve the goal, the more time they will take.
This isn’t to say you should allot less time than you need. Just don’t overshoot and schedule an hour meeting for a problem that can be resolved in fifteen minutes.
Another neat trick with time is to choose weird numbers. A 22-minute meeting will make people more conscious of start and end times. And a meeting that starts at 9:27 instead of 9:30 will have your team remembering “that strange 9:27 meeting.”
3. Choose essential attendees.
Throughout my career, my instinct was to summon my whole team to a meeting. I don’t want anyone to be left out of the loop. But we shouldn’t waste our employees’ time by having them sit in on meetings they have nothing to do with. Those are wasted work hours.
Consider Jeff Bezos’ famous “2 pizzas” rule: if you can’t feed everyone in the meeting with two pizzas, there are too many people present. Of course, this rule has to be scaled down for a smaller business, but the same principle stands.
When you schedule a meeting, invite only essential personnel. Extra people in a room tend to clog up productivity.
4. Change the scenery.
Sometimes, the conference room really is the best place to have a meeting. But a change of scenery every once and a while can really benefit your mind, as well as your attitude towards a specific subject or a goal.
If you find yourself in a small two- or three-person meeting, take it outside. Or if it’s below freezing, take it to that weird nook in your office no one uses. Shake things up.
5. Ditch the laptop.
According to the Washington Post, students who take notes on laptops are less likely to understand complex ideas than those who use traditional note-taking methods. The same is true in your meetings – if your team are all focused on their laptops, chances are they’re less engaged, and have more trouble understanding.
So unless it’s absolutely essential for the meeting, leave the laptop at your desk.
When you write out your notes (preferably in a journal), you just remember more.
6. Ask the right questions.
Roger M. Schwartz, author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams, suggests in an interview with Fast Company suggests posing agenda items as questions. For instance, instead of holding a meeting to “discuss last quarter’s sales,” hold a meeting to find an answer to the question, “why were sales down last quarter?”
Changing your agenda into a list of questions can serve as a quick and easy way to find a concrete goal. And if you don’t manage to reach that goal, then your team leaves the meeting knowing what they need to do next.
7. Encourage participation.
If the only people in your meeting are essential personnel, who are the right people to help you reach your goal, then it makes sense that they should all have a voice in the meeting. When everyone participates, it will make achieving the objective quicker and easier.
So encourage your team to speak up. Everyone in that meeting is in that meeting for a reason – let them know you value their unique point of view.
Questions to consider:
- How often do you call your whole team into a meeting, when not everyone really needs to be there?
- Do you set a hard time limit on your meetings? Or do you tend to let them run “as long as it takes”?
- Does your team bring their laptops to meetings? Do you notice a lower level of engagement and productivity?