4 Steps to Stop Soul-Sucking Meetings

Often meetings are unnecessary, extremely boring and not useful to team members. By following these four steps, you can make your meetings productive and worthwhile for your staff.

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By Philip Damiano • Jul 7, 2014 Originally published Jul 7, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Meetings are a corporate oxymoron: an essential practice that generates groundbreaking ideas but also sucks the life out of a workforce. Employees waste away in conference rooms trying to pay attention to others give languorous presentations on mind-numbingly boring TPS reports and listening to overviews with no impact on his or her job function. Don't do this to your employees.

Here are four key considerations you can use to keep co-workers engaged and productive.

1. Be timely. As the familiar adage goes, time is money. Every tick of the clock reflects in your company's bottom line. Indeed, meetings can cost companies between $250 and $1,100 per week, according to a post in Bloomberg.

Related: 7 Secrets of the Most Productive Meetings

Meetings are major investments and should be expected to create a substantial return. Before holding a meeting, ask yourself if the opportunity cost of conducting the meeting is worth it -- will the benefits exceed the cost? MeetingKing has a handy cost calculator to help you make that determination.

Additionally, meetings should be no longer than 45 minutes, as humans focus best within that timeframe. If the agenda clearly looks to take longer (it shouldn't unless there are special circumstances), split the meeting into 45-minute periods with a rest in between.

2. Have an agenda that make sense. Not only do meetings take time, but they also impact the way we manage our time. Seventy-three percent of professionals admit to doing unrelated work in meetings, according to research from Wolf Management Consultants Workers don't have time to complete their tasks because of a packed schedule and instead are wasting others' efforts by not contributing to group discussions.

Consider the frequency with which meetings are called around a specific project. Do you really need daily status updates or can it be shifted to weekly? Meetings take people out of their workflow and promote procrastination. Most workers see the half hour before and after meetings as dead time, because there isn't enough time to dig into work tasks. People trying to work within this timeframe often show up late which only lengthens meeting times.

Related: 4 Lessons From the Worst Business Meeting Ever

3. Be selective on who attends the meeting. Only invite people capable of contributing to the discussion. This way, employees feel valued and are more likely to positively engage in the discussion.

Management must communicate the goals and logic behind the shift. People who used to attend meeting may panic when their schedules open up. Employees need to understand that their time is more valuable than their presence at every meeting. Management is giving people more time to complete their work task -- not diluting their value to the company. In fact, fewer meetings should increase interoffice communications and keep everyone informed.

4. Determine if you really need the meeting. This is the ultimate question people should ask themselves. We live in a world of Skype, email, Wikis and a million other collaboration tools. These tools do not make all meetings irrelevant -- particularly for those involving problem solving, brainstorming and other types of creative thinking -- but they can be used to free up quite a bit of time if used effectively.

We've lost sight of the purpose of meetings. What started as a simple means to gather people to solve major problems has devolved into an overused tool that is draining morale. People should look forward to an opportunity to collaborate with their co-workers, not dread them. Scaling back on meetings makes people more efficient and happy. By implementing the above strategies, employees will spend less time muttering under their breath about soul-sucking meetings and more time invested in doing work that will help your business soar.

Related: How to Get More Out of Staff Meetings

Philip Damiano

President North America and Business Development at Esselte Corporation

Philip Damiano is currently president of North America and Global Business Development for Esselte Corporation. He co-founded Kensington Microware and also served in senior leadership positions with global brands including Velcro Group Corporate, IdeaPaint and DYMO Corporation.

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