Whether you’re a veteran meeting leader or a rookie who’s new to the floor, there’s always something to learn about executing productive meetings. Did you know that small businesses in the U.S. waste up to $37 billion annually in costs related to unnecessary meetings? Think about it - if you plan a two-hour meeting with 10 employees, you are spending 20 hours of your company’s time. So next time you’d like to call a meeting, ask yourself these questions - Is it necessary? Who needs to be involved? And what can you do to ensure a successful outcome?
- Set clear objectives for the meeting and always prepare an agenda. Creating an agenda may seem like time consuming extra work, but it does pay off. Stick to the agenda! You made it for a reason. Use the “parking lot” method when new or unrelated topics arise. Have a whiteboard or writing pad designated for these ideas to ensure the attendees that their points are relevant but will be discussed at a more appropriate time.
- Focus the meeting on significant and relative topics. Lack of direction results in pointless meetings and pointless meetings are a waste of time. Focus your meetings on substantial topics such as progress toward quantitative goals, problem identification, new ideas for improvement, important takeaways, etc.
- Respect everyone’s time. Stick to designated start and end times. How will this make meetings more effective? If people trust that you will honor the set start and end time, they are more likely to arrive on time and less likely to bring other work with them. When employees worry about meetings running over, they often bring unrelated work to complete to feel like they are not wasting any time.
- Eliminate the dread factor. “Ugh, we have that meeting today...” Ever hear that around the office? Get employees excited about the meetings and give them something to look forward to. Set your meeting time 10 minutes earlier than usual, say 2:50 p.m. instead of 3 p.m. Use that 10 minutes as social time or to play a game. Fun games include guessing which baby picture belongs to who, finding hidden objects in the room, or solving a riddle. This will not only get employees to the meeting on time, but it will also energize them and get their creative juices flowing.
- Encourage engagement. If you speak the entire time, people will lose interest. Everyone was invited to this meeting for a reason, therefore everyone should engage, voice their opinions and leave the meeting feeling accomplished. To keep the attendees responsive, toss a ball around to allow them to take turns speaking or throw out candy to those with good ideas.
- Follow up. Your meeting is not officially complete until you send all attendees a follow up email within 24 hours. There’s no need to include every single detail, just a summary of important items discussed, as well as action items that need to be completed. Be clear on who is assigned to which task and set due dates.