Meetings

5 Ways to Not Waste Your Employees' Time at Meetings

Getting a bunch of people in a room to hash out a new concept or to build consensus is a wonderful thing -- until people abuse it, and then it’s not. We all have colleagues who are woefully negligent in the way that they request, host and manage meetings, and it’s preventing everyone from spending more time doing their actual jobs.

If you work for a company that thinks the solution to every problem is another meeting, this post is for you. If instead your company is lean and thrifty with its use of meetings, keep reading -- there may be a few ways for you to step it up even further.

Related: Why Meetings Are One of the Worst Business Rituals. Ever.

1. Define what exactly it is you're doing in a meeting.

Simple stuff right? If there isn’t a very clear objective statement for a meeting invite that comes your way, decline it or ask for one. Every meeting request needs to have a “The purpose of this meeting is to…” sentence within it. Otherwise, run!

2. Require an agenda -- every time.

If we’re going to have multiple salaried employees in a live session, it’s not too much to ask to let everyone know what we’ll be discussing to achieve the objective. Everyone needs to come prepared and everyone needs to know their role in the meeting. No role? Don’t go. Not going to meetings you’ve been invited to takes guts, but it also helps you stay focused on what’s important -- like your work.

3. Timing is everything.

Give people adequate notice. Anything less than a few business days should be frowned upon. Make sure you put time in your calendar before and after the meeting to prep and then to jot down your actions. The agenda should have time allotted to each point -- and then move on. Most importantly, if anyone tries to derail the discussion onto a personal point or gets distracted by a shiny bright object, respectfully put things back on track for the sake of everyone’s sanity. Recurring meetings should require some sort of majority vote or executive green light, as they're often the worst offenders when it comes to wasting everyone's time.

Related: Meetings Suck. Here Are 5 Ways to Make Them Suck Less.

4. Use technology to make sure everyone has a voice.

Most of the big brands in the tech world used Google Moderator to ensure anyone -- even the introverts -- can ask questions in a meeting. The team would vote on the best ones, and the questions would be answered at the end. Efficient, right? Bad news: Moderator is dead. Good news: SpeakUp just launched SpeakUp Live, and it’s free in Beta. Letting the most confident and outgoing people in the room dominate the airtime is a recipe for sub-optimal results, but companies routinely fail at tapping into the collective wisdom of all employees -- especially the quiet ones.

5. Follow-up is mandatory.

So we’ve just spent several thousand dollars in hourly wages and opportunity cost to discuss these super important topics and achieve our objective. Awesome! What’s next? Well, the meeting moderator needs to update everyone on the action items, owners and due dates. If there’s no follow-up, did everyone just waste their time? Yes. 

Changing behavior and building discipline around when and how to schedule meetings isn’t easy, but if you commit to mandate these rules, you’ll be amazed at how many meetings start to fall off the calendar. Why? Because scheduling a meeting is a lazy, simple thing to do. Scheduling a meeting, hosting it effectively and following up is not. Just imagine how much more time we’ll have to do our jobs.

Related: These 5 Mistakes Make Meetings a Huge Time Waste