There is nothing worse than a nonproductive meeting, but it happens all the time. According to Atlassian, employees attend roughly 62 meetings a month and half of the time in session is wasted. On average, 31 hours are unproductive every month because of these meetings.
In addition to the time you lose during attendance, there is the time prepping for it and getting there, as well as the time it takes for you to mentally get back into your regular tasks – the average employee spends two hours every day recovering from distractions.
It can really set back your day, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are several steps you can take to get your company’s or department’s meetings back on track:
Have an Objective
One of the biggest things you can do is to set an objective for any meeting you schedule. Vague agendas, such as simply checking in with everyone on where they are at on their respective projects, don’t work. You need an achievable objective for the meeting, such as setting a price for a proposal or deciding which strategy the team will use. Having an objective to achieve takes an average of 17 minutes off a meeting.
Keep It Sparse
You may have heard that many top companies set a limit on attendees for their meetings. Google caps it at 10 while Amazon never invites more people than two pizzas can feed, and there is a good reason for that. Non-essential people are never invited – only managers and team leads who are directly involved with the meeting objective will attend their meetings.
Verbal Presentations Only
Visuals can help explain a point or concept, but slideshows and printed charts on poster board will just waste time. Often, the presenter just says exactly what is on the screen – something each attendee could do on his or her own time. You can prevent this by introducing a "verbal presentations only" rule. If a visual is necessary, it can be distributed to meeting attendees before the meeting if a discussion is warranted, or handed out during the meeting for them to review later.
Keep Electronics in Your Office
Many people bring their full arsenal of electronics to meetings. There is a laptop or tablet computer (maybe both) and a cell phone in every pocket. The problem is that people tend to use these tools for other purposes during the meeting. Atlassian reports that 73 percent of meeting attendees did other work during their meetings. Don’t let that happen at your company by instituting a no-devices policy for your meetings.
Set a Timer
Also, don’t be afraid to set a timer. Meetings have a devious tendency to expand to as long as they are scheduled. The best practice to prevent this time drain is to limit your meetings to just 15 minutes or fewer. There won’t be enough time to go off topic.
Unfortunately, even once you have the right people in attendance, electronics stowed away, no visual aids and a clear objective, meetings can still go off the rails. You have to make a concentrated effort to maintain direction. The easiest way to do this is to name a meeting leader. This person is responsible for making sure that any discussion is on topic and that meeting attendees leave with a defined set of next steps and deadlines for those actions.
Meetings are often a waste of time, but with a little planning, you can make them twice as effective in half the time. Just remember to keep it short, keep it focused and keep it meaningful. Your employees and your company’s productivity will thank you.
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