Tips to Make Your Meetings Highly Productive

We’ve all been to workshops which were directed well, and we’ve been to some that were not exactly there and made us rest throughout the day. To know how to make assemble gatherings profitable, there are a few tips a man leading the meeting can take after. Take in the secrets to lead an all around oiled, non-chaotic and proficient meeting.

If you’ve been a victim of long hours of torture, or tried to coordinate a meeting in which everyone looked at their smartphones instead of you, then you know you are going wrong somewhere. Official meet-ups are supposed to be goal-oriented and productive, not boredom-inducing kids’ birthday parties.

The current trend these days is to ditch meetings altogether and use E-mail to discuss and arrive at a consensus. According to statistical data, around 11 million meetings are held daily in America. The average cost of useless meetings per year is $37 billion and increasing. A lot of people get frustrated with non-productive team meetings that waste precious work time (31 hours per month to be precise), and so the only solution they logically arrive at is to scrap all meetings altogether.

This never helps, because meetings, when well-conducted, are hotbeds of growth and opportunity for the organization. They provide a platform to communicate with other core members of the organization, and for brainstorming solutions. Top well-oiled organizations function only because they have regular, short, and productive meetings. Intel Corporation, one of the biggest technological innovators and manufacturers in the game, takes its meetings very seriously. Every new employee is required to take the mandatory course on how to conduct an effective and efficient meet. The course was taught for several years by former Intel CEO and current senior advisor, Andrew Grove.

Take a look at some of the guidelines followed by top organizations in the world…

Keep it Short

The more time you allot to a task, the less you do it better. Most meetings become long affairs which lose their points of focus and end up rambling all over the place. To avoid this, try and limit the time spent to 15 minutes. Keep a timer, if necessary. Review after 15 minutes whether you need a bit more time to finish the itinerary, and adjust the time by increments of 15 minutes as needed. The need to finish sooner will give added impetus to stick to main points of the discussion.

The reason for the 15 minute limit advocated for meetings is because the average human attention span to digest new information is 15 to 18 minutes, after which physical exhaustion sets in due to the extra oxygen and glucose needed to understand and absorb new information. The impatience generated during long meetings will be avoided altogether, and the participants in the meeting will feel more relieved and stay refreshed if they know that they will leave the meeting soon enough.

Reward the Punctual Ones

It is necessary that the meeting start on time in order for it to end on time. If it doesn’t, the rest of the day is delayed for other parties that might want to use the room for another meeting. If the conference is set at 2 PM, take strict action against the ones coming in later than 2, for example, by not allowing them inside. The ones that are early could be rewarded for their punctuality with refreshments before the meeting commences. Nip tardiness in the bud by setting an example.

Do the Planning

A day or so before the ‘big event’, make sure to create a list of the topics and decide the objectives and aims of the upcoming do beforehand. This is done to ensure that the dialog does not go off-topic and out of hand with respect to time which is unacceptable.

Send Invites to the Party

The party, ahem, meeting, is going to go badly if the attendees do not come well-prepared for it. Send the itinerary you’ve prepared to other people who are to attend, and specify if the meeting is regarding issuing information, assigning work, performance reviews, or brainstorming. Thus, you ensure that everyone that comes (including you) is well-prepared for the discussion and has had time to consider solutions. Do not spring unexpected topics into the discussion.

Plan According to Employee/Member Availability

If you plan a meeting, know that you are taking away time from employees. Time which they could have utilized for finishing deadlines or pending work. Several people never turn up because they have other more urgent work, and would prefer doing it because you cannot conduct an interesting meeting. Conduct a meeting when everyone is present, and available, to reduce wasted time.

Cut the Gabbing

Small talk, digression and rambling eat up a lot of time and make employees lose focus. The agenda is lost and employees walk out dissatisfied and clueless. It would not encourage anyone to come again. As someone presiding over the proceedings, it is your job to ensure that speakers do not change topics, and if they do so, it is not wrong to politely tell them to reserve the small talk for water-cooler meetings.

Limit Allotted Speaking Time

Before starting the proceedings, decide how much time is allotted to speakers and make it known to them. They will stick to their original point to get it across as quickly as possible. Once the time is up, the next speaker will speak. Each person should get an equal amount of time. Complainers should not be entertained if the type of meeting does not allow it.

Don’t Shoot Down Ideas at the Outset

This applies mainly to brainstorming, where ideas tend to get rejected at the outset before the meeting has even picked off. With all ideas exhausted, no one volunteers any more for fear of being shot down. Teach yourself and the participants that a better tactic would be to list all ideas provided by the employees, and then discuss them one by one before eliminating them. This ensures all ideas get analyzed equally in order to select the best one of the lot.

Avoid Mudslinging

Do not even allow the meeting to reach anywhere near this point. The longer it lasts, the less easily people can get back to work. The more that happens, the angrier people will get, leading to irrational and unprofessional behavior. Hold separate meetings to address complaints between private parties.

Bring Less People to the Party

Only the people directly concerned with the meeting must attend. It makes no sense to call every single person, because attending a meeting where they are not required can lead to them missing out on their own work. Trust in-charges to convey important points to their subordinates or colleagues. Unless the occasion calls for it, the entire staff being present is never of any use.

No Gadgets

It has been observed that writing increases retention of ideas as well as facts, whereas typing on a gadget makes the typist concentrate on typing the correct words, rather than concentrate on ideas enunciated. Create a place where people can safely leave their gadgets and retrieve them after the proceedings are over. Even when it comes to making presentations, completely relying on them makes the “communication and discussion” part of the meeting redundant.

Give Breaks for Longer Meetings

Meetings that last longer than half or one hour, taking breaks is essential to refresh the participants. This helps prevent loss of concentration and retain interest in the proceedings. Moreover, breaks help people digest and mull over information that they have just taken in. This ensures the next session is going to be well-thought over.

Spectators not Invited

Those who attend a meeting must contribute to it, either by carrying out a responsibility, or by asking questions. By doing so you ensure that people who have been assigned work are going to take it seriously and follow through with carrying the points decided at the meeting. This tactic also prevents confusion, as everyone knows his or her own task and is accountable for it.

Stand Up/Walk and Talk

CEOs these days prefer to conduct meetings while standing or walking. No chairs are given to anyone present. This is not a torture tactic, but from an evolutionary perspective, things get done faster standing. The body gets tired, and mental processes work faster to avoid this fatigue. Standing up also feels more important, whereas sitting makes people comfortable enough to become lax. Sometimes, nature is said to stimulate creativity.

Use Meeting Tools for Large Organizations

In very large organizations with several people in-charge of different sectors, using conference software and apps is common practice. Distance is no bar. The stress of calling and managing a large number of people is reduced. Web conferences are also better for impromptu discussion because they reduce the possibility of travel and can be played back. A web conference automatically reduces the topics to what is needed to be discussed.

Reschedule if Information is not Available

If, during the proceedings, you find that sufficient information regarding the issue is not available or is not being presented clearly, adjourn the meeting to a later time to avoid misinformation being created and spread, which will ultimately come back to bite you. There is also the assurance that you are not wasting anyone’s time with pointless speculation.

Ask for Feedback and Follow up with Attendees

At the end of each conference, make sure you get feedback from everyone. After a few days, ask them to follow up with you later with whatever tasks they were allotted to do. This confirms what transpired to them during the time they spent with you. Feedback enables you to learn where you go wrong in conducting meetings that produce zero results.

Avoid Too Many Meetings

The crux of the matter is to avoid too much conferencing. Make sure you are calling people for the most urgent and important reasons. The less get-togethers you call, the more your people get time to do what they originally were hired to do. Meetings cost a pretty penny to organizations, and the less frequently you call them, the more important they will be to all involved, and the more seriously they will be taken.

Revise the Points Decided During the Meeting

The minutes must be recalled at the end of the session. This is done to clarify and avoid confusion as to the final action and also to refresh the memory of those present. The plan of future action that has been drawn up must be presented once more in brief, and each person’s role must be recounted by himself to encourage participation and understanding.