12 Tips for Better Meetings

Dreading your next business meeting already? If you want to make meetings more efficient, more enjoyable, and perhaps even less lengthy, follow these 12 tips.

Businesses large and small all over the world are doing something today that they likely regard as the double-edged sword of office productivity—they’re meeting.

Meetings happen all day, every day. Some are impromptu while others are planned. Some are marathon day or multi-day long events while others take only minutes. They’re online, offline, teleconferences, breakfast or lunch, and meetings over golf.

But most meetings share the same dichotomy. They’re essential for planning, growth, and morale but every minute you and your employees are meeting, you’re leaving important work sitting on your desk. E-mails, voicemails, and other to-dos are stacking up and you’re getting even more behind.

If meetings are essential, maybe the way to address this familiar problem is to run better meetings.

Have a Clear Leader

Who is in charge of the meeting? Who has the final say when a decision has to be made? Who decides when it’s time to take a break, change the course of the conversation, or move from brainstorming to deciding on an idea? Everybody should know who is in charge.

Set a Goal

Goals are like budgets: everybody knows that they should set goals but it’s often the first thing overlooked. What’s so important about a goal? First, it establishes parameters. If you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you’re less likely to let conversations stray to other topics that move you away instead of towards the goal.

As the leader of the meeting, be quick to acknowledge the value of people’s thoughts and ideas but if it’s not helping people move towards the goal, table it for another time.

Second, it sets an endpoint for the meeting. Once you reach the goal, the meeting is over. If you want to discuss other topics, set up another meeting.

Communicate Goals Before Meeting

When you set up the meeting, give people a detailed description of the goal and what they should prepare prior to arriving. If it’s a planning meeting, ask everybody to have a well thought out idea. If everybody comes to the meeting having already formulated plans and responses, the meeting is likely to be much shorter.

Don’t Sit Down

Want to keep your meeting moving along? Don’t use a conference table with comfy chairs. Nobody wants to stand for 2 hours so use that to your advantage. Even better, promote office wellness by making it a meeting with an exercise component. Maybe the team takes a walk or plays ping-pong, or everybody heads to the gym. Don’t have a gym? If you have a road you can incorporate walking.

Limit the Guest List

The more people you invite, the less efficient the meeting is likely to be. More people trying to talk results in more opinions to acknowledge and discuss and the amount of cross-talk can make for a chaotic, inefficient environment. Include only the people who need to attend and ask those people to communicate the information to others who need to know.

Bring a Wooden Spoon

Employ a tactic often used by therapists who teach communication skills. Start the meeting by holding the wooden spoon. Explain to everybody in attendance that nobody can talk unless they’re holding the spoon. Of course, you could use a tennis ball, bean bag, or anything else. This works particularly well in large meetings where everybody is trying to talk.

RELATED: How to Manage People Who Disrupt Meetings

Vote First

It may seem like a backwards approach to vote on the resolution before the discussion but there’s no need for a long discussion if everybody already agrees. If there isn’t agreement, people on each side to present reasons why they believe a certain way.

Put your PowerPoint Away

PowerPoint is a thing of the past. If they need visual aides to understand the material being covered, give it to them prior to the meeting so they can digest it in a way that compliments their learning style.

Use a Whiteboard Instead

Having a brainstorming meeting? Get a giant whiteboard and let everybody’s mind run wild. Write keywords, draw pictures, make a flowchart, and draw stick figures. At the end, take a picture with your phone and send it to others.

No Meeting Monday

Designate at least one day where meetings aren’t planned and not allowed. That day gives employees time to catch up on e-mails, projects, and paperwork as well as prepare for meetings happening that week.

End Meetings on Time

Sometimes meetings run longer than expected but if that’s the rule rather than the exception, something needs to change. If your team is overly chatty, designate somebody as the timekeeper. Ask them to give warnings at one hour left, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.

Have an Action Plan at the End

What should attenders leave with? Was something decided that requires implementation? Is further research required or a policy written? Make sure everybody leaves knowing what their role is in the next step.

RELATED: How to Run Productive and Effective Business Meetings

Bottom Line

Meetings are essential but they take employees away from front-line duties. Only meet when it’s essential and keep them as short and concise as possible. If you want an informal meeting where people talk casually as well as formally meet, make it a lunch outing.

RELATED: Five Reasons to Cancel That Meeting

Business owners that maximize the efficiency of every moment of the work day for their employees will always see better results.

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