Tips for Productive Meetings

There’s an old joke among people in the business world: “Let’s have a meeting about having meetings.” Certainly, there are times when meetings feel not only unproductive, but totally pointless. There’s no agenda, no scope, no way to reel in the talker who won’t stop talking about something that isn’t even on the agenda, which doesn’t exist anyway.

Ask anyone who works in a business environment and they’ll tell you that the number one way to waste time is meetings. It’s so easy for a meeting to go off track but there are some simple ways you can ensure that doesn’t happen to you or your team!

Tip #1 — Keep Meetings Focused on a Particular Point

Large, generalized meetings are more likely to go off the rails. Instead, drill down to focus the topic of a meeting as much as possible. Decide what the outcome of the meeting needs to be so that the purpose is clear. Does a decision need to be made? Are people going to be assigned tasks to take away? Focused and clear topics limit the number of participants who are required to be there and ensures that whomever is running the meeting can keep everyone on point.

Tip #2 — Be Organized With an Agenda

Without an agenda, you’re flying blind as to what you are supposed to be meeting about and what the expected outcome is going to be. There’s nothing worse than having everyone sitting around a table wondering why they are there, or not knowing how to begin.

Agenda

The agenda needs to be set up in line with the topic in order to remain focused. It should also be sent out in advance so that all participants know what’s coming and can be prepared with any resources and materials that they might need. A meeting where someone who is addressing one of the points but can’t answer questions because they’re unprepared is a pointless gathering.

What should you include in the agenda?

  • Points of discussion
  • Objectives of the discussion
  • Who will be addressing which points
  • How much time will be given to each point
  • Who is running/chairing the meeting

Tip #3 — Start on Time and Keep it Short

Time

Meetings run long because of two reasons: people aren’t focused on an agenda and are just ‘chatting’ OR the meeting started late because one or more of the participants were tardy. Sending meeting reminders helps but ultimately, start the meeting at the time scheduled. Those who are late are going to play catch up on their own. It sends a clear message to them that they had better be on time for the next meeting!

By being focused on a specific topic, meetings can be kept short and succinct, with a tangible outcome at the end that various team members can act on. A win-win for everyone involved!

Tip #4 — Beware of Scope Creep

Like a project that gets out of hand because the original scope is ignored, meetings that don’t have a clear agenda that is adhered to by the chair will almost inevitably experience scope creep.

Meetings that don’t remain focused tend to get out of hand, both in terms of time spent and a lack of tangible results at the end. People start talking about other matters and try to fit in a topic of their own interest. The person chairing the meeting has to be strong here and reinforce the agenda, the timeline and remind everyone to stay on topic.

For any team, there is immense satisfaction in coming together for a common purpose, obtaining an outcome and then leaving the meeting content in the knowledge that something was accomplished. Keep these tips in mind for your next meeting and you’ll see a change in how you get things done!