If you’re reading an article on how to make meetings more productive, we can safely assume you’re part of a growing group that feels like many meetings are a waste of time. Elon Musk weighed in on the issue, claiming, “Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worst over time.”
So many of the most wasteful meetings could be taken care of with a face-to-face chat or a quick phone call. But one of the worst uses of a meeting is to set tasks. So many project management tools allow you to establish instructions and deadlines, assign key players, and provide resources, saving a vast amount of meeting hours over the year.
With that in mind, we’re going to explore 5 steps that will show you how to make meetings more productive. Starting from pre-preparation and ending with performance analysis on follow-up tasks, we’ll give you a complete roadmap toward productive team meetings.
The most effective team meetings have a clear, important purpose that is in line with your company goals. Your purpose will be the lynchpin that helps everything else fall into place, so let’s get down to it.
Remember that if you are the sole decision-maker, you probably don’t need a meeting. For a meeting to make sense, the participation of your attendees should be integral to achieving your goal. Brainstorming sessions are a classic example, with everybody making contributions based on their perspective. Progress reports, while not as collaborative, can still require a meeting if you want to communicate key insights and take questions in real time.
Having clear objectives lead to focused discussions and prevent your team from going off on tangents. Therefore, before sending out your invitations and working out the details later, your first port of call is to establish a clear goal for the meeting.
Knowing how to make meetings more productive involves communicating your goal well in advance of the meeting itself. Firstly, it helps to motivate attendees by giving a solid response to the question, “What’s the point of this meeting?” Later, during the meeting, it is a focal point you can refer back to which helps to keep the conversation on track.
Include the goal in the title of the event you launch in your team calendar. “Annual conference” is too broad a description, but “Confirming the running order of the annual conference” gives your team a better understanding.
Your purpose and the smaller objectives that guide you to it are only one part of the planning battle. When learning how to make meetings more productive, you can’t ignore the importance of a detailed agenda. Using your priorities as a guiding light, you can significantly reduce wasted time by structuring the meeting into clear, logical steps.
Remember that productive meetings are not information sessions. They’re for bringing ideas together and making key decisions. As a manager, you should be clear that each participant should read the agenda in advance to come fully prepared for the meeting. One easy way of checking compliance is by setting read receipts on your invitation emails.
Your meeting objectives will serve as a guide, but writing an agenda is a more intricate skill than creating a simple list. These best practices will help you set the tone and give the right amount of context to your attendees.
Outline your goal and key talking points
By offering a list of minutes, your attendees know what will be discussed, and you should encourage them to make notes about the important points they want to discuss. When everyone knows what to expect, they feel more confident in contributing during the meeting itself.
Ask for suggestions for your plan
Make a habit of sending your agenda on a collaborative document that allows meeting participants to add suggestions. By integrating quality inputs into your plan, you won’t have to address unexpected points during the meeting, allowing you to stick to your time limits.
Calculate expected timeframes
Setting a timeframe for each point stops the meeting from overrunning and backs you up if you need to push on to the next stage. Poor timing is one of the biggest complaints about meetings, so get everybody on the same page before you begin.
It’s a curious habit of inexperienced managers that they want to hold full control over every aspect of their job. This mentality runs in direct contradiction with how to make meetings more productive. Assigning roles is part of your planning process that promotes accountability and makes the meeting more effective.
Typical roles include a meeting leader, which doesn’t have to be you. For the most productive meetings, you might not even be involved in the session itself, so be prepared to take a back seat. Your meeting leader is usually an experienced team member who keeps the meeting flowing and ensures the agenda is covered.
Every meeting should have a note taker: someone to summarize decisions and collect action points post-meeting. To keep things simple, take notes on the same collaborative document as your plan so it’s easy to access from the same link found in your calendar invite.
Unencumbered by facilitating discussions or taking notes, your timekeeper will flag when the group is getting close to a deadline. A one or two-minute warning will help your team stick to priorities and wrap up each issue before moving to the next one.
Of course, not everybody can have a specific role — you’ll have some that fall under the category of “attendee”. But be careful about how many people you invite. The most effective team meetings are those that streamline their guest list. The fewer the attendees, the more productive the meeting, so don’t feel obliged to invite everybody — one representative from each team is enough.
If you want to keep people engaged, there are few better techniques than assigning roles.
On one side, new recruits who haven’t yet found their place in the company take a role in a meeting as a vote of confidence. Rather than being an added extra to the meeting, their responsibility gives them a sense of importance and ownership.
On the other side, more experienced workers can easily get complacent and switch off, thinking they’ve seen it all before. So for more productive team meetings, rotate responsibilities to shake people out of autopilot. This will get an important job done while getting a new lease of life out of your established team members.
Be sure to highlight that assigning roles and responsibilities aren’t about creating a hierarchy. They’re a technique for how to make a meeting productive by turning a group of attendees into a collaborative environment where everybody contributes.
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No matter how much we try to twist the truth, we all know that focusing on one task at a time is the most productive way of working. Applying that to efficient meetings, you need to find ways of keeping everybody alert and on-task, which will help prevent the resentment caused by overrunning meetings.
Smartphones are a scourge on productivity. The constant notifications and the physical habit of checking for them drag attention away from the task at hand. So if you want to know how to make meetings more productive, start by putting phones on silent. Some managers even request that attendees leave their phones in a box throughout the meeting — out of sight, out of mind.
Sticking to your agenda is of vital importance for effective meetings. Therefore, any tangents work against your goals. If a lively discussion erupts, it’s up to the meeting leader to reassure attendees that it can be addressed at a later date before guiding the conversation back to the matter at hand.
Let’s start thinking outside the box here. While finding ways to stick to your structure are more than valid, you should also consider people’s mindsets when organizing a meeting. Sure, you’ll have to check team calendars to find a time that works for everyone. But if that is at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning or 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, you’re not going to have a productive meeting.
As you gain experience, you can learn how to make meetings more productive by testing times against each other. This is especially valuable for meetings that need to be recurring, as you can set a standard time and create a predictable rhythm.
Managers who know how to make meetings more productive use their sessions as a springboard for their next steps. Too many meetings live in a void as if nothing existed before or after. But as a smart project manager, you’ll need to make sure every meeting ends by planning action items and follow-ups. This is where you look at the decisions you’ve made and create a plan to reach your organizational goals.
Start by taking your new list of objectives. Perhaps you need to run an entire marketing campaign involving several people in attendance plus a few non-attendees. Alternatively, it could be as simple as your product manager reaching out to a third-party provider to check their availability for an upcoming project. Whatever your next steps are, make sure your team is aware of them and that your note-taker is getting it down.
But note-taking isn’t enough in this case you need to formalize your next steps. Efficient meetings don’t end when your time is up. As a manager, you need to go back to your desk and create all the relevant tasks just like you would when launching a project. This means detailing instructions, assigning participants, uploading resources, and fixing measurable deadlines.
Now we come to perhaps the most analytical part of how to make meetings more productive: measuring that productivity.
With timeframes and deadlines set, you can monitor the performance of your team post-meeting. When your team uses time-tracking software, you can get an idea of how long certain tasks should take, which will inform planning in the future. With real-time analytics, you can see when teams are falling behind and intervene to see what the blocker is. Perhaps your instructions weren’t clear enough, or maybe your team needed more resources.
All of these techniques will help you improve as a manager and learn how to make meetings more productive in the future.
Now you’re equipped with strategies for how to make meetings more productive, it’s time to put them into practice.
The smartest leaders combine managerial know-how with technology for the best results. With Bitrix24, you get all the tech you need at your fingertips:
Unlimited calendars and time management tools for scheduling
Project management software to plan your next steps
Performance data for analysis and improvement
All of these features are part of an all-in-one business platform to help you run your entire organization from one cloud-based headquarters.So if productive meetings are part of your recipe for success, sign up for Bitrix24 today.