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'This Meeting Could've Been an Email': How to Know When a Meeting Is Really Necessary Instead of having your employees dread meetings, create a dynamic session for them so they can feel their time is being valued by learning the five Ps of productive meetings.

By Jason Miller

Key Takeaways

  • There's still a place for meetings in today's workspace, but it needs to be done using a structure and being mindful of everyone's time.
  • Include purpose, participants, preparation, process and progress to ensure success for your next team meeting.
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We've all been there. Whether as an attendee or a leader, we've all had the thought, "Could this have just been an email instead of wasting everyone's valuable time?" Most employees dread team meetings and it's no wonder why; a shocking 92% of employees believe meetings are unproductive and costly.

Why might you want to conduct a meeting? Perhaps you want to brainstorm new ideas, solve problems, make decisions, plan out new company changes, introduce new team members or clients or train new hires. There are many great reasons to hold meetings. But to give your meetings the best chance at being deemed productive and successful, start implementing the five Ps of productive meetings. Follow these simple guidelines I personally use and you will have rockstar meetings.

Related: 3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Meetings

The 5 Ps of productive meetings

1. Purpose

It's confusing entering a meeting without being told what the purpose of the meeting is. Make it as clear as possible so everyone can be on the same page from the beginning. State the amount of time the meeting is allotted for and what needs to be decided by the end of that time. Also, you don't need to wait until the meeting starts to share the purpose. When my partners or I conduct meetings, we make sure the participants of the meeting know ahead of time why the meeting is taking place. It's an unsettling feeling for most employees to have to anticipate a meeting they know nothing about.

2. Participants

When I first started running team meetings, I thought having everyone present was important and more impactful than only inviting a handful of people. I have since learned more isn't better, and when people don't feel they need to be in the room for a certain meeting, morale goes down. No one wants to feel like their time is being wasted, especially when they have work, they could be getting done so they don't have to stay overtime to get it done. Make sure the people you invite to your meetings can make decisions and/or contribute information regarding the topic at hand.

3. Preparation

One of the biggest pet peeves employees have about meetings is the lack of preparation. To be as prepared as possible, send out an agenda beforehand to all parties involved. In the agenda, include specific roles employees will have at the meeting, the timeframe of the meeting and the objectives. Also, feel free to give employees tasks ahead of time so they can best prepare for the meeting.

At my company, we held a meeting about improving employee satisfaction and morale, and we asked our employees ahead of time to think of ways we could help make their work experience better. This created a productive meeting with a lot of great ideas being given, instead of participants having to use the time to think on the spot and perhaps not getting to give the best answers. Giving them a week to think about how their workdays were going and what could be changed allowed them enough time to brainstorm.

Also, in terms of preparation, make sure there aren't any technical difficulties on the day of the meeting. No one likes waiting for a meeting to start due to a lack of preparation for your technology. Make sure a day or two beforehand you have the necessary equipment needed. Whether that's a projector, a whiteboard or speakers, make sure everything is there and functioning. Then come into the meeting 20-30 minutes ahead of time and make sure everything is connected properly.

Related: How to Create a Meeting Agenda That'll Make Employees Actually Want to Attend

4. Process

You want your meeting to run as smoothly as possible, so now it's time to focus on the process. The process takes place during the meeting and includes things like making sure everyone stays on track of the agenda and tangents are kept to a minimum. Make sure each point on the agenda has a clear amount of time set for it so you don't spend too long on one section and not have time for the rest of the agenda items. You can assign someone specifically to this task. Also, make sure notetaking is being done by someone reliable on your team. Well-documented notes can do wonders when you need to re-address certain topics or go back to which decisions were made.

5. Progress

No one wants to feel like their time was wasted. Let your participants know what's been accomplished and what tasks need to be done next. If there needs to be a follow-up meeting, each participant should leave the meeting knowing what their exact steps are for the next meeting. Make sure meeting notes are shared at the end so everyone can stay refreshed and held accountable for the tasks they've been assigned.

Bonus: How to make sure your meetings are fun

Provide free lunch at your meetings. Some even think of the sixth P of productive meetings as pizza! Make sure you keep your meetings short. Whenever possible, stick to 15-20 minutes as this is the optimal meeting length for regular meetings; for decision-making meetings, you may need to keep them longer. Morning meetings are best for decisiveness and afternoon meetings are best for attendance. Try both and see which ones work best for your team.

Related: Your Company Sucks at Meetings: Use These 7 Tips to Get Better.

When your meeting should be an email

  • You need to update your team on the status of something.
  • If it's a simple issue.
  • If it doesn't require the whole team and only a few people.
  • If a large group of people need to be informed at once.

Unproductive and boring meetings lead to employees daydreaming, losing energy and wasting time that could be spent on relevant work tasks. There's still a place for meetings in today's workspace, but it needs to be done using a structure and being mindful of everyone's time. Include purpose, participants, preparation, process and progress to ensure success for your next team meeting.

Jason Miller

CEO of the Strategic Advisor Board

Jason Miller is a seasoned CEO with an overwhelming passion to help other business owners and CEOs succeed. He was nicknamed Jason “The Bull” Miller because he takes no BS and no excuses from the people he serves. He has mentored thousands of people over more than two decades.

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