February is known as the month of romance, but did you know that it’s also the busiest meeting month of the year?
If you find yourself running around the office jumping from one conference room to another or dialing in for one call after another, you’re not alone. In fact, the first quarter of 2014 is poised to be the busiest meeting season of the year due to the holiday break, and 25 percent more meetings take place in February than any other month of the year, according to Blue Jeans Network’s State of Modern Meetings report.
At the same time, because the U.S. is experiencing one of the coldest seasons in decades – with the Polar Vortex, massive snowstorms and plummeting temperatures -- some professionals have been unable to make it to work for days at a time. But that isn't stopping meetings from occurring. In fact, winter storms resulted in 20 percent more online meetings than a typical day in 2013 based on the same report by Blue Jeans Network. A main reason for this spike is because mobile and cloud technologies are allowing many folks to work and conduct meetings from their homes and other remote locations.
When remote meetings are the best option for employees, the question is how to keep those employees as productive as possible when working from home. Here’s a set of tips to help entrepreneurs prepare for February and effectively manage meetings and their teams when working from home as this atypical artic weather marches on
Say goodbye to long meetings. Because February is a serious time-cruncher for everyone, you need to think carefully at how long a meeting should take before you schedule it. The average duration of a meeting is 45 minutes based on the same report by Blue Jeans, so strive to finish most meetings in 30 minutes by keeping everyone focused and avoiding small talk.
Prevent chronic tardiness. As the old saying goes “time is money.” So if you’re noticing one of your colleagues or employees is always running late to meetings, you need to address it early and ensure it is corrected. Because when one meeting runs late, it can delay the next meeting of every other meeting participant.
Seeing is believing. When you’re conducting conferencing calls on the phone, it’s hard to know if your staff or customer is fully paying attention to you. In fact, our company found that six percent of people admitted that they’ve fallen asleep during an audio-only meeting. If you haven't started using video conferencing, it’s time to make a switch and in turn, conduct more productive and fruitful business meetings.
Bolster engagement by asking questions. We’ve all been in meetings where only one or two people (known as the “talkers”) are always speaking up, leaving others taking a back seat. This is especially prominent in virtual meetings where it’s easier for attendees to not participate as often. To maximize engagement and participation, call on the more laid-back employees to see if they have any questions or perspective on the topic you’re discussing.
Did you forget something? It’s difficult to keep up and remember next steps when there are many back-to-back meetings. That’s why it’s important to designate one person to write down all action items, and before a meeting ends and have them read the items aloud to ensure everyone’s on the same page. Now, how do you ensure your staff will read action items? Try putting an office-appropriate joke in the email as an incentive for them to read the action items.