The 7-Step Guide To Effective And Productive Meetings

By Richard Kao

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Boring and pointless meetings are the biggest enemy of workplace productivity!

Did you know?

A company’s entire workforce spends about 15% of their working hours on meetings. The biggest of organizations may even spend up to 300,000 hours every year on a single weekly meeting.

And for senior executives, spending 2 days of their work week huddling with 2 to 3 co-workers seems to be the norm.

Insane, isn’t it?

We spend so many hours talking about what to do instead of doing.


And the worst part:

More than 60% of employees in meetings and conference calls would rather work and send emails than tune in!

The rest took the assembly as an opportunity to either play their favorite games, check Instagram and Facebook, or shop online. If most of the attendees are not getting any value, why call for a meeting in the first place?

Make no mistake:

Meetings are important to an organization.

Gathering the entire team to brainstorm or solve a crisis can foster stronger teamwork and increase overall productivity. But only if carried out the right away.

In this short, step-by-step guide, we will look at how to ensure the meetings you hold don't suck your productivity and helps your organization.

1. Evaluate Monday Meetings

Your company holds a Monday meeting.

But consider this:

The pile of unread emails and unfinished tasks are growing, while employees are still recovering from the weekend. But an hour of intense, productive work can help them get over the slump.

Now, do you want to get in the way of a strong start for the week?

If your Monday meetings often turn to updates galore, other modes of communication can better serve the purpose.

For sharing updates and “just in time” information, use social media, email, or voicemail instead. They’re quick and easy to use. Plus, the privacy they afford lets employees give as detailed of an update as they see fit.

2. Be Clear On The Agenda

Have you ever been to a meeting where talking points are all over the place? It probably ended with, “Let’s continue the discussion later this week.”

Banters were thrown, and ideas were exchanged. But nobody has an inkling of what to do next.

Avoid such time-suckers by being clear on the agenda and getting everyone involved up to speed. Attendees may get bored or lost if they don’t know where the discussion is heading.

Start with a core topic and lay down talking points around it. If you can’t narrow down the agenda in a single sentence, don’t call for a meeting. Chances are, the discussion will just ramble without any sense of direction.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, bases senior executive meetings around 6-page narratives. These long documents contain the author's agendas and thoughts, laid out in full sentences and paragraphs, so attendees understand what the meeting is about.

Everyone involved gets a copy of the narrative, and the start of the meeting is spent in silence as the people in attendance read and absorb the information. The extra reading time keeps everyone updated while preventing those rhythm-breaking questions for clarifications in the midst of a discussion.

3. Put Someone In Charge

Meetings can go awry fast if no one is directing it.

When you call for a huddle, you are usually also in charge of the steering the discussion. But if you must let someone take charge, make sure they know their responsibilities such as acknowledging speakers, getting input from quiet attendees, and keeping the discussion on track.

And with an agenda prepared in advance, the person in charge of the meeting will have an easier time getting what you expect to accomplish and updating you on how things progressed.

This approach to meetings is respected and practiced even by Google. According to Kristen Gil, Google VP of Business Operations, delegating a clear decision maker every time helped the Google+ team release 100 new features in the first 90 days!

4. Don’t Invite Everyone

Let’s say 3 of your sales reps aren’t hitting their goals, while the rest of the team is on track. Calling for a team gathering makes little sense when you can conduct a coaching session instead.

The latter route allows your goal-hitting reps to stay productive while giving underperforming employees the closed-door environment needed to voice out their concerns and be honest about their shortcomings.

Don't invite people that have nothing to do with the agenda. Let them do their job! If you need to update them, send a copy of the minutes via email.

5. Start On Time

Get this:

Starting a meeting late can impact the rest of the day.

If it doesn't start on time, it won't end on time. The next meeting starts late, unsurprisingly, and the vicious cycle goes on. The entire day is off the track, and you may have to reschedule important tasks for tomorrow.

So when you get a time slot for a meeting, start and end right on the dot. Your employees have important work to do. And you should respect their time.

Now, don’t forget to leave a buffer, about 5 to 10 minutes, when scheduling back-to-back meetings.

You need to take into account the time required to refill your coffee, walk from one meeting room to another, and get settled. If you don't, we know how a late start can snowball and wreck the rest of the workday's schedule.

6. Eliminate Distractions

Multitasking doesn’t work. If you call for a meeting, kindly ask attendees to put any technology away - from laptops, tablets, to smartphones - so they can focus on the discussion. This step also eliminates the tendency to play video games or check one's social media profiles.

Moreover, putting technology away lets your employees absorb the material better.

In a large study by economists from West Point, smart students who were allowed to use laptops in classes scored worse in exams than their no-laptop counterparts.

The meeting room isn’t different from the classroom. People come there to learn, brainstorm, and come up with solutions and action plans. If attendees have one eye on the presentation and another on the phone, they’re likely to forget or miss important points in the meeting.

7. End The Meeting With An Action Plan

All the brainstorming, planning, and theorizing won’t make a difference in your business if you don’t take action.

So at the end of a meeting, make sure everyone walks back to their workstations with a concrete plan of action. Better yet, go around to review the action steps every attendee has just to make sure all important steps were noted.

When Steve Jobs was alive, kicking, and running Apple, the company observed accountability in every meeting. Every agenda item and task laid down during the assembly had a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI), eliminating any confusion about who should do what.

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