I have never met anyone who says they want to attend more meetings at work! For many people, meetings are a productivity zap.
Many people comment that meetings can be a waste of time, time which could be better spent focusing on more productive tasks. Or that meetings are unnecessarily long and boring, or that their creative ideas get ignored or that decisions are not made.
The higher up in a company you are, the more time you are likely to spend in these unproductive and demotivating meetings. It is estimated that this can be as many as 23 hours each week.
No one minds attending a meeting that is planned and productive, but it’s those poorly run meetings that are the issue.
Here are some steps you can take to overhaul your business meetings so you avoid wasting your valuable resources and get creative ideas and ingenuity from your talented team members.
To have an effective and productive meeting, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this meeting necessary? Perhaps you could get the same outcome with a phone call or an email. This could allow you to get valuable input from the members of your team who feel less comfortable in a traditional meeting environment. Not everyone likes to share ideas verbally. Be respectful of people’s time and resources and consider individual communication styles.
- What is the purpose of the meeting? By setting objectives and being clear on what you need to accomplish, you’ll be more efficient. Communicate the purpose of the meeting as part of the invite and again at the start of the meeting. Having a well thought out agenda, that you stick to, will make the meeting much more efficient. Seek input from team members and list agenda items as questions the team needs to answer.
- Who needs to attend? You won’t get the best out of your employees at a meeting if there is no real need for them to be there. Not only will they come into the meeting with a negative attitude, they’ll switch off, lose motivation, and won’t provide the creative ideas and feedback your business needs to thrive. Do you allow your employees the option to leave, if they feel that it is not useful for them to be in the room? Elon Musk tries to avoid meetings at Tesla and encourages people to leave meetings if they are not adding any value.
- Have I given plenty of notice? Make sure you tell your team about the meeting at least a day in advance so they have time to collect their thoughts, focus and give it their best. Ideally, send out the papers and pre-reading prior to the meeting.
Get rid of PowerPoint
Attend any traditional meeting and you’re almost certain to find a PowerPoint presentation that needs to be picked apart and discussed before the meeting can finally come to an end.
The result? Your meeting feels overly formal and leaves your team members feeling disconnected from the core purpose of your meeting.
They’re less inclined to contribute, less likely to retain the information you’re sharing, creativity is limited and the overall message can be lost behind the visuals. If team members prefer to absorb information slowly, the faster-paced, thinking on your feet ‘PowerPoint Approach’ is also more likely to deliver disappointing results.
For these reasons, the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos banned PowerPoint from their meetings back in 2018.
The alternative is simple. Present your team members with a document outlining the points you’d like to discuss either before or at the start of the meeting and allow them time to read and digest the information.
Keep it short
Meetings shouldn’t take hours or feel like an ordeal. To get the best out of your team, they should be short, sweet, and effective.
Wherever possible, keep meetings to under 30 minutes and rely on that agenda to ensure you cover every topic. If you have an extensive list of ideas to discuss, consider scheduling a separate meeting to focus on each topic in turn.
Don’t be afraid to end the meeting before planned if you’re not making progress or adding value. You won’t offend anyone. As a business, your time is money. You can always reschedule if required and give your team time to reflect on the issues at hand.
Consider everyone’s personality
More extroverted members of your team are more likely to communicate their ideas without prompting in a meeting. They’ll play an active role, speak their mind, and won’t mind being the centre of attention. When working with an extrovert, you must ensure that they don’t take too long or take over the meeting. Having a skilled facilitator can help this process.
Introverts, on the other hand, are more likely to consider the ideas carefully, take notes and avoid being in the spotlight. If this difference in behaviour isn’t addressed effectively, you won’t get the most out of your team members.
To do so, provide plenty of time for reflection, allow them to take notes and create a ‘round robin’ style section that pushes the individual to speak without adding too much pressure.
By taking the different personality types into consideration, you’re more likely to find a balance.
Some may feel nervous about public speaking
There may be members on your team who could benefit from attending a public speaking workshop or coaching session. When all eyes are on you in a meeting setting, some may feel a level of discomfort that prevents them from sharing their ideas. Consider upskilling your team members so that they feel confident to speak up at meetings.
Although introverts prefer quiet spaces with plenty of time for reflection and extroverts prefer action, big groups and constant action, all team members will work more effectively in a meeting if you keep distractions to a minimum.
Ask everyone to avoid using their devices and ban answering phone calls, checking emails, or completing other tasks whilst the meeting is in progress. If Members of your team prefer to take notes, encourage them to write them down in a notebook instead of firing up the laptop. It can also be useful to provide notes afterwards to allow your team to digest what they have heard.
Actively manage the meeting
Every effective meeting should have a facilitator or timekeeper to ensure that the time is used effectively. This can include using hand signals, coloured cards or even using a timer to ensure that everything is covered before moving onto the next topic.
They can also help guide the discussion, encouraging more introverted team members to speak up and limiting the time that the extroverts stay in the limelight.
Summarise your meeting
When the meeting comes to an end, recap what has been discussed and outline details such as next steps, the time frame and who is responsible for each task.
This provides clarity and promotes an action-based approach that can help your business move closer towards its goals. Combined with a printed copy of the next steps, you’ll ensure that even team members with a short attention span can take action.
Switch your location and get creative
Meetings don’t have to be done in a dull, stuffy conference room.
In fact, moving to another location such as a coffee shop, bar or even the great outdoors can help add new creative energy to the proceedings and make it a fun experience that team members will look forward to.
Many multinationals also like to use office design to promote spaces that allow for different types of meetings and personality types.
How could you switch up your meeting location to get the best out of everyone?
Business meetings can be productive, effective, and even fun if you follow the steps outlined here.
Prepare for the meeting carefully, set time limits, consider everyone’s personality, and actively manage the proceedings to ensure everyone can share their ideas. By doing so, you’ll get the best out of your team and turn round meetings to be an opportunity for creativity and innovation.
About the author
Lisa Evans helps professionals to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor.
She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations.
If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat. Download my new E-book How to Build Confidence and Overcome Nervousness.
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