If you want your next meeting to be more productive, prepare a written agenda and email it to attendees at least two hours in advance.
Include a list of attendees, specific objectives, and a start and stop time. During the meeting, display the agenda on a screen or whiteboard to keep everyone on track.
Another tip: ditch PowerPoint in favor of personal interaction.
“Who hasn’t struggled to stay awake through a three-hour meeting, or left a department-wide pow-wow wondering what the point was,” writes Brian Scudamore for Forbes. “Each month, people spend about 31 hours in unproductive meetings, and the U.S. spends a whopping $37 billion on salaries for hours spent in unnecessary meetings.”
The first question to ask: is this meeting even necessary? Could the subject matter be addressed in a memo, email or conference call?
If you decide a meeting is necessary, here are 12 tips for making the most of it:
- Invite the right people. Include only those who have a stake in the outcome and can contribute in a meaningful way. Tell them in advance how you’d like them to participate.
- Follow the “rule of seven” and don’t invite too many people. “Every attendee over a total of seven reduces your likelihood by 10 percent that the group will be able to make an informed decision,” says Simone Maxwell, business professor at Purdue University Global in this US Chamber of Commerce article. “So if it’s a problem-solving or decision-making meeting, aim for no more than eight participants. If you’re brainstorming, invite as many as 18 people; and if you want to disseminate or share information, invite as many people as you want.”
- Have a healthy mix of skillsets. “You should at least have a host or presenter, a discussion contributor, an agenda contributor, a special project participant, and a brainstorming contributor,” Maxwell says.
- Schedule it down to the minute. “I’ll often request 22-minute meetings,” says Scudamore. “This may sound silly, but I’ve found it’s a hyper-effective way to keep everyone conscious of both starting and ending times. People tend to fill the amount of meeting time they’re given. I generally get just as much done in 22 minutes as in a standard half-hour meeting.”
- Make the purpose of the meeting clear. State your objective on the agenda. Write it on a whiteboard at the front of the room. Keep repeating the objective throughout the session. Doing this will shave an average of 17 minutes off the meeting time.
- Pick the right day and time. Mondays and Fridays are not optimal. Neither is early morning or late afternoon. The best days and times: between 9 and 11 AM or 2-4 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
- Choose the right location. An ideal room will have plenty of natural light and comfortable seating. Avoid fluorescent lighting and cramped spaces.
- Or go outside. Some meetings might be conducive to a walk-and-talk, or a gathering at a nearby park or coffeeshop.
- Reward people for showing up. One company places gift cards of varying amounts in a bowl, one card for each attendee. “We always have 100 percent attendance,” says the CEO. A tried and true method is to provide food, even if just coffee and doughnuts. “If you feed them, they will come,” says this HR consultant.
- Use tech tools. Skype, Zoom and Facebook Live make it easy to meet without leaving your office. Meeting management software like SoapBox, Lucid Meetings and MeetingKing can do most of the heavy lifting. “No one has to guess what should be on the agenda, how long the meeting should be, how to lead each part of the discussion, or what needs to get written down,” says Lucid Meetings CEO J. Elise Keith in this piece. “Your meeting management system spells all that out, making it possible for your organization to bring in a great meeting process and then quickly spread that to every team member.”
- Eliminate distractions. Some companies have a no-laptop/no phone rule for meetings. Studies show that concentration and retention levels dip when your portable device is present, whether you’re using it or not.
- Follow up. Circulate a summary of what was decided and action items for what comes next. Consider doing an informal survey of attendees. Was the meeting worthwhile? Too long or too short? Did you have an opportunity to participate?
How do you get the most out of your meetings?