Meetings don’t happen regularly because they’re fun. For most workers, they are now the unpleasant corporate necessity that everyone has to live through.
But this sentiment is mainly owed to poorly run and unproductive meetings.
Executives used to spend 10 hours a week on meetings in the ’60s. But it’s now up to 23 hours a week on average 50 years down the line according to research.
The worrying thing about most of these meetings is that they steal valuable time and make workers less productive.
But meetings don’t have to maintain their bad rep in your company if you know the right way to facilitate them.
Can meetings be productive?
Meetings are integral to every workplace because they’re needed for critical decision-making and crucial business strategies.
But they can easily become time-wasters when handled incorrectly.
In many cases, managers call for meetings to share information when an email broadcast will do.
However, when you look past the negative impacts of badly handled meetings, you’ll find many perks of effective employee roundtables. They can boost communication, unify plans and thought processes, strengthen teamwork, and improve the general work environment when done right.
But how do you manage meetings effectively?
In this article, we’ll cover different ways to organize meetings and make them productive, showing you tips that work with different meeting formats and settings.
Steps for organizing productive and effective meetings
A lot of planning and considerations go into organizing effective meetings. The steps below will guide you on best practices for planning, scheduling, and managing a meeting.
Schedule only necessary meetings
According to research published by The Muse, about 35% to 50% of work hours are spent in meetings, depending on a worker’s position. These numbers are scary, given that workers will only be left with 65% to 50% of their work hours to get things done.
You can reduce that trend by scheduling meetings only when they are absolutely necessary.
So, how do you identify ideal meetings to organize? You can start by going through what we call the ideal meeting checklist. The checklist helps you to evaluate the purpose of the meeting to determine whether it’s important enough to have workers drop work.
Checklist 1: Does the matter require input from team members?
It’s important to confirm that the matter to be discussed requires input from participants, or else you may only be wasting their time.
So, if the purpose of the meeting is to brief team members or make an announcement, you can do that through any of the company’s communication channels rather than call for a meeting.
Checklist 2: How many team members does the issue affect?
Are you meeting about a project or specific tasks under the project? In that case, you can narrow down the number of people that should be involved in the meeting instead of inviting the entire team.
Checklist 3: Who are the decision-makers?
Even if the meeting’s agenda affects some team members, it may not be wise to always invite them if they won’t have any input. Instead, you should share your calendar with the decision-makers and send a company-wide brief on the outcome of the meeting later.
Checklist 4: Is everything set up for the meeting?
Scheduling a meeting only to realize that the conference room projector is faulty is a waste of valuable time. So, ensure everything’s in order before sending out the invites. Last-minute changes may disrupt everyone’s schedule, especially if they’ve blocked out time for the meeting.
Invite only relevant stakeholders
Ensure the meeting room isn’t filled up with people who aren’t interested in the agenda and won’t be contributing.
Only invite people who have clear stakes in the meeting and will leave with action items to implement. That way, you won’t be preventing other team members from working when they won’t have any input in the meeting.
Find the right time for meetings
The next step to take is to determine a meeting time that works for everyone.
Meetings are often unproductive because people would rather be elsewhere. As a result, they don’t fully concentrate and some may end up multitasking and not contributing as they should.
Solving these problems of concentration and commitment involves finding the ideal meeting schedule. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
That said, with the right measures, you can figure out the ideal time to schedule your meeting. Let’s show you some tips.
Understand everyone’s schedule
Understanding everyone’s schedule is key to finding the right time for a meeting. That way, you can pick a period that doesn’t clash with any team member’s work.
This process requires scheduling data from team members, which makes tools like time trackers and project management applications important.
You can use time-tracking applications like Traqq to check out each team member’s work pattern to determine when they’ll be likely open to meetings. Project management tools can help you identify openings when workers don’t have task schedules or when they’re assigned tasks that can be conveniently postponed for the meeting.
Consider every timezone
Scheduling meetings across different time zones can be challenging, but there are ways to make it as convenient as possible for all attendees.
One way is to find the sweet spot where everyone’s working hours overlap. If this is not possible, try to minimize the inconvenience by choosing a time that is less convenient for you rather than for other participants.
Additionally, it is courteous to apologize for any inconvenience caused by the time of the meeting in the invitation.
Determine the type of meeting
Considering the type of meeting you want to organize helps you determine the right schedule. For example, if it’s a brainstorming session, you may need to schedule it in the morning when everyone will be fresh to present ideas rather than evenings when team members are already tired.
You should also consider the meeting format. That is if it’ll be a virtual or in-person meeting.
Communicate the meeting’s value
Telling everyone what’s in store will motivate them to free up more time in their schedule. That way, you’ll have more time to work with.
Make sure there’s enough time to prepare for the meeting
The ideal meeting schedule considers all the logistics involved in attending the meeting and gives participants time to prepare. While emergency meetings are a reality, you don’t have to schedule every meeting on short notice.
Set up company meeting days
Allocating specific days and times in the week for company meetings means workers can leave that space open in their calendars. You can then use those slots when scheduling and organizing meetings.
While these slots will remain open, you don’t have to always use them when there’s no need for meetings.
Instead, teams and departments can use those time periods for other activities when there are no meetings scheduled.
There are different tools that you can leverage to help you organize better meetings. From meeting scheduling apps to virtual communication platforms, technology can make your in-person and remote-based meetings more productive.
Get your agenda right
A meeting agenda serves as a roadmap for your team, outlining what will be discussed and what is expected of them during the meeting.
To maximize effectiveness, the agenda should clearly convey the purpose of the meeting, assign tasks or responsibilities to team members, and allocate appropriate time for each agenda item.
A well-structured agenda can help ensure your team stays on task and makes the most of the meeting.
Here are tips you should follow:
Make sure participants receive the meeting agenda well beforehand
It is recommended to share the meeting agenda at least an hour before the meeting to give participants time to prepare and add any questions or agenda items. This can improve focus during the meeting.
Different team members can handle different talking points
To avoid causing discomfort for team members, it is best to assign a facilitator for each agenda item before the meeting. This will give the meeting a sense of variance and make it more interesting.
Also, sharing the talking points before the meeting means the facilitator has time to prepare and provide a quick overview of the topic, answer questions, and gather feedback.
Prioritize and define agenda items
Clearly defining the purpose of each agenda item helps team members understand the focus and priority of the meeting. This also allows for efficient use of time, as items that can be addressed later can be discussed asynchronously if time runs out.
Each agenda item shouldn’t exceed its allocated time
A meeting that ends early is generally well-received.
To ensure that meetings don’t run longer than they should, allocate an appropriate amount of time for each agenda item by estimating the time needed and adding a few minutes for miscellaneous discussions. This will keep the team on schedule and prevent discussions from dragging on past the allotted time.
Decide the ideal output of each meeting
Meeting output refers to the decisions and actions taken during a meeting, such as resource allocations, task assignments, conflict resolutions, and creating new plans.
These outputs are determined by the goal or purpose of the meeting, so it is important to plan ahead and have a clear idea of what you and your team want to accomplish.
By taking tangible steps towards achieving the meeting goal, you can ensure that the outcome of the meeting is productive and beneficial for all participants.
Every participant should come out of the meeting with clear action items
Ideally, a successful and productive meeting should provide participants with actionable strategies, plans, and assignments. It should also align the team’s collective vision and operation concerning the agenda.
Consider collecting feedback from participants to help you make changes to facilitate better and improved meetings in the future.
Meetings can be productive with the right organization and strategy
Your team members no longer have to heave a sigh of frustration whenever it’s meeting time. With the right organization, style, and strategy, you can bring the fun back to meetings and ensure everyone is committed to making them successful.