Do you know how much time you spend on meetings? According to Atlassian, most employees attend 62 meetings in a month on average, half of which are considered “time wasted”. In total, 31 hours a month wasted on unnecessary meetings account for $37 Billion of salary loss for U.S. businesses.
To avoid pouring money (and hours) down the drain, here is a list of 10 best practices to improve your meetings.
1. Limit the number of meetings
If you want to improve your meetings, cut all the unnecessary ones. Do you really need this in-person (or remote) meeting? Or could an email or a chat discussion do the job? Before planning a meeting, carefully build the agenda, not necessarily as topics, but rather as questions to answer or decisions to be made. Information meetings should be avoided as much as possible.
2. Only invite relevant people…
So, you’ve decided that the meeting should happen. Alright, but are all these people around the table really useful? The more people attend a meeting, the less each individual will feel involved. To make your meetings efficient, cut down bloated meeting attendance and only invite those who really contribute to attend the meeting. And if you have second thoughts about whether you should invite someone or not, you can compute the hourly rate of all employees. It will give you a sense of the cost of your meeting.
Don’t worry, you can still keep all stakeholders in the loop and send them the minutes afterward.
3. …and let attendees leave the meeting if they don’t feel useful
Even if you’ve carefully prepared the list of participants to the meeting, some of them may feel out of place anyway. After all, to err is human. To avoid wasting their time, make it a rule in your company that attendees can leave a meeting at any time, without having to explain themselves. Those who decide to stay will feel all the more involved.
4. Prepare the meeting
Before getting into the meeting room, every participant should be aware of the topics that are going to be discussed – and make sure they have all the information they need. As the meeting organizer, you must be clear about the goal and desired outcome of your meeting. Make sure you carefully prepare the agenda and send it a few days ahead. And make it a rule that each attendee should at least read it – if not prepare it more thoroughly – beforehand.
5. Keep it short
Have you ever tried to challenge the hourlong meeting standard? Not every meeting needs 60 minutes to go through the topics of the agenda. Besides, according to the psychological principle called the Yerkes–Dodson law, we tend to work best under ‘some’ pressure. But cutting down the time can actually increase the effectiveness of your meeting. And to make sure you don’t start dwelling on some topics, you can adopt one of the best practices of Scrum daily meetings and make all the participants stand up.
6. Focus on no more than 3 to 5 topics
The human brain is not able to absorb loads of information all at once. If you want to keep the attendees’ attention until the end, select the few matters you want to cover. And collect all your minor topics in an “Other” category that you can address outside the meeting or on the next one. That way, it will also be easier to keep the meeting short.
7. Start and end on time
The attendees’ time is precious. Don’t make them waste it by waiting for the meeting to start. Those who are punctual will appreciate starting on time, and the latecomers will learn their lesson for the next meeting. Likewise, make an effort to honor people’s busy schedule by ending on time, even if a conclusion hasn’t been made on a topic. You can either discuss it later with the appropriate person or schedule a meeting if the matter requires it.
But try to understand why the meeting was too short, in order to improve it next time. Running meetings is like anything else, you won’t get it right on the first time, it needs to improve over time.
8. Prevent one-on-one discussions
If you want to keep your meeting short and efficient, one-on-one discussions must happen outside. Don’t let debates or technical discussions between two people happen in the middle of the meeting at the risk of boring all the other attendees. If the focus deviates, kindly invite the participants to get back on track.
9. Forbid cell-phones and computers
Cell-phones and computers can be a great source of distraction. According to a survey, 92% of the respondents confess to multitasking during meetings and 69% to checking emails. The no smartphone-no computer rule can make a huge difference in terms of meeting productivity.
10. Capture action items and follow up
If you’ve prepared your meeting carefully, your objectives for each topic should be clearly defined and charged with all the attendees. While wrapping up each topic, make sure you capture the key points and action items, and clearly define who is in charge of each action. At the end of the meeting, send the minutes and follow up on the actions that were decided.
I can assure you that if you try to adopt some of these rules, your meetings will drastically improve. Feel free to share your difficulties and successes in the comment section below.