6 Easy Ways to Hold More Effective Meetings

Jared Macdonald
April 5, 2015

Like them or not, meetings are a way of life in the business world. We devote an average of four hours per week to them and sit in roughly 60 per month. Nearly 50% of business professionals ranked meetings the top time-waster at the office.

Considering half of the time in a meeting is considered a waste, can we not just make meetings shorter and more productive?

Here are a few tips to help you make that exact scenario a reality.

1. Have an Agenda and Stick to It

Take the time to craft an agenda for your meeting that outlines the specifics of what will be covered. Include the agenda in the calendar invite being sent around or, if the meeting is being organized more informally, send participants an email beforehand so everyone can come prepared and ready to go.

To fine-tune your agenda, answer questions such as:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • What topics will be covered and in what sequence?
  • How much time will be spent on each one?
  • Does each topic need to be covered?
  • Who absolutely has to attend?
  • When the meeting starts, remind everyone of the agenda. Having a clear plan and sticking to it helps everyone stay focused and helps prevent unnecessary dialogue.

2. Schedule Less Time

You’ll find that if you’re determined enough, a 15-minute meeting can accomplish what you thought would have required half an hour. When it comes to the length of your meetings, shorter is better! Shorter meetings will help keep everyone focused and buy back time in their day.

Here are a few tips to help manage meeting times:

  • Police the discussion to make sure nobody repeats what someone else has already touched on
  • Table any conversations that are not relevant to your agenda
  • End the meeting at the scheduled time, even if you haven’t completed the agenda

3. Make Sure Everyone Gets a Chance to Speak

Ever been in a meeting where someone hogs the floor and overpowers the discussion?

Not only does it hold back progressing through the agenda, but the dominant person’s views can become the de facto consensus in the room. Others in the room may not necessarily agree but might also be hesitant to speak up and give their own opinion as a result.

If you’re the meeting organizer, make sure to work the room so everyone gets the chance to speak. Encourage input from each person and, if needed, pass a token around the room like a baseball or a bean bag that gives the person holding it uninterrupted speaking power.

If you’ve got attendees that have called in via telephone or video conference, always remember to poll them for their feedback as well.

4. Don’t Tolerate Late Starts

Unless you’re waiting for a person that your meeting revolves around, start at the scheduled time regardless of who has shown up. Not only is lateness disrespectful to the meeting organizer and those that did show up on time, it starts the meeting off on the wrong foot.

EffectiveMeetings.com offers a few tips for meeting organizers that tackle lateness:

  • State that the meeting will begin promptly at the scheduled time and that all participants should be on time
  • Shut the room doors once the meeting has started and leave a note on the door for latecomers
  • Consider collecting a quarter or a dollar from latecomers for each minute that they’re late to use for coffee or donuts at a future meeting
  • Also, make sure to avoid rehashing what’s already been covered in order to bring latecomers up to speed on what they missed. Being late was their problem; they can get caught up after!

5. Ban Phones and Laptops

Now this one could draw the ire of a few of your colleagues, but if your goal as meeting organizer is to get more done in less time, then nobody should be able to direct their focus elsewhere on a laptop or smartphone.

Say your weekly marketing meeting was half an hour and you’ve made it 15 minutes this time around out of necessity. The last thing you need is your co-workers mentally checking in and out by tapping on their devices.

The ‘checking-phones-at-the-door’ movement isn’t anything new, as French president Francois Hollande has banned phones during cabinet meetings, following similar implementation by government officials in England and the United States.

“To focus on what we must do, the president has decided that there will be no more mobile phones in cabinet,” a French spokesman told The Guardian. “Each of us will now have to talk and listen to what is said and will no longer be able to tap away at this magnificent tool.”

Craig Jarrow over at the Time Management Ninja offers a couple of reasons to ban technology at your next meeting:

Shorter Meetings:

  • Fewer distractions mean meetings shouldn’t take as long.
  • More Active Participants: If everyone’s heads are focused on the meeting, the input will be much more insightful.
  • Fewer Interruptions: No more phones vibrating on the table or people needing to take a call.
  • Technology use inside a meeting doesn’t just affect productivity, though; it can also affect relationships with your colleagues. Most people would say that checking texts or writing emails while .

If you’re hosting a longer meeting, schedule periodic breaks so everyone can check their devices and get caught up.

6. Make Action Items Crystal Clear

Tasks and action items are the most important part of effective meetings. While they take proper planning beforehand, the implementation of what’s discussed during them is even more crucial.

If there are follow-up or action items, make it crystal clear who should be doing what and who is accountable.

One great tip comes from 99u, where they suggest you go around at the end of the meeting and review the action steps assigned to each person. It doesn’t take a lot of time and can help reveal things that might have been missed or misinterpreted.

For every tip on this list, leading by example goes a long way. Want your colleagues to check their phones at the door? Be the first to leave yours. Want participants to follow through on their action items? Take the first step by listing what yours are and how you will get them done.

With just a few tweaks and by following these tips, you too can start having more effective meetings!

About the Author

Jared heads digital strategy as Pragmatic’s Marketing Manager. With a background in experiential marketing and sports journalism, he’s particularly passionate about the customer journey and aligning sales, marketing, and customer success.

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