Your Company Sucks at Meetings: Use These 7 Tips to Get Better.
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
If you don’t own a mug that says, “I survived another meeting that should have been an email,” someone else at your company does -- and for good reason.
Modern companies hold too many meetings. The more time your teams spend in conference rooms, the less time they spend selling, marketing, creating or producing. Good meetings are a necessary evil, but take away the necessity, and they become plain evil.
Quit wasting time and hold better, more meaningful meetings by following these tips:
1. Automate the schedule and agenda.
Instead of playing email tag, use workflow-automation tools to find a time that works best for everyone. With the right tools, you don’t have to worry about whether important players will attend or how many times you'll need to reschedule. Plug everyone’s name into the software, and the computer will tell you exactly when to get together.
Workflow-automation tools can even help you create better meeting agendas. When attendees know what to bring and what to say, you can slash meeting time in half, letting everyone get back to work.
2. Limit the guest list.
Anyone who doesn't play an active role in the decision-making process doesn't need to attend your meeting. That includes superiors who want to stay informed and frontline team members who will carry out the decisions. Keep the guest list as short as possible, then update people who need to know the details in a post-meeting email.
By limiting attendance, you can cut an hour-long meeting down to 30 minutes. Then, if you need to talk to your team about how to execute the ideas, you can communicate the essential information without wasting everyone’s time describing how you arrived at the final strategy.
3. Ban presentation tools.
People forget PowerPoint slides the moment they see them. Ditch the presentation tools, and limit your communications to the most relevant information. If people need to know the statistics, hand out copies of the data and cover only the most important parts.
At Amazon, Jeff Bezos begins meetings with 30 minutes of silent reading. That may sound unpleasant, but people absorb information better when they don’t have to pretend to memorize bullet points. To keep your meetings shorter, keep your information-dissemination techniques simple.
4. Stay strictly on time.
If you say your meeting will start at 9:00 a.m., don't start at 9:02. Respect your time -- and everyone else's -- by sticking to the schedule. This may take some getting used to, depending on your office culture, but stricter time management pays off.
Consider starting meetings at unusual times, like 10 minutes after the hour, to give people the opportunity to arrive and get situated. Don’t add that time back to the end -- you can easily get through an hour’s worth of meeting content in 50 minutes.
5. Name names.
To keep meetings relevant and prevent too much time spent on clarification, assign a directly responsible individual for every action item. Otherwise, everyone in the room will nod at the necessity of the proposed action, then leave assuming someone else will take care of it.
At the end of the meeting, ask DRIs to clarify their responsibilities to the group. This ensures nothing falls through the cracks and enables DRIs to make sure they understand the expectations before they begin working.
Related: Why Elon Musk Hates Meetings
6. Meet in person.
During conference calls, people like to send emails, check social media and cook breakfast -- in other words, do pretty much everything except listen. Avoid wasting people’s time by hosting meetings in person at every opportunity.
In situations where one or more attendees works remotely, use videoconferencing tools to simulate the real thing. Nothing beats an in-person meeting, but when attendees can see and respond to one another’s real faces, they at least know their colleagues are present and engaged.
7. Change the environment.
Meetings already take away from normal work time. Why not go the extra mile by giving attendees a chance to get away from the office for a minute? Schedule off-site meetings at either the beginning or end of the day to give attendees a break from the usual.
Shake up traditional meetings a bit more by enforcing a standing-only policy. People like sitting down, and the longer you make them stand, the faster they'll want the meeting to end. Nothing ensures speedy resolutions like physical discomfort.
So ditch the grumpy meeting mug, and use these tips to make meetings more worthwhile. You may still prefer to work in your office, but at least this way, the meetings you attend will be short, valuable and relevant to your productivity.