Guaranteeing more productive meetings has become increasingly difficult. The expansion of the internet has caused modern business practices to evolve rapidly. The ability to do business from anywhere at any time enabled by the internet has disrupted industry after industry, while at the same time creating opportunities for innovative enterprises to grab market share. In the face of the momentous changes the online revolution has ushered in, one business custom has retained its importance, even if at times its form may change: this custom is the meeting.
Whether held in person, over the phone, or via video link, productive meetings still fulfill an important role in the business world. By bringing together coworkers or business partners they enable you to make important decisions, reach consensus, and share vital information. Whatever form a meeting takes, there are a variety of techniques that can be used to make it as productive as possible. Five tips for holding the perfect meeting are covered below:
Keep Them as Short as Possible
While the saying “brevity is the soul of wit” may not be referencing meetings, it might as well be. The best meetings enable productive collaboration between team members, while not preventing employees from doing something more productive with their time. Time spent in meetings takes away from time spent performing an employee’s main business function.
As a result, if a meeting outlasts the time in which it is useful to its participants, it becomes counterproductive from an efficiency standpoint. One rule of thumb: try to run meetings so that they last half as long as expected. So, if the meeting was expected to last 2 hours, aim for 1 hour. If 1 hour, aim for 30 minutes.
Another concept that can be used to help make your meetings as effective as possible is to keep the attendance list to a minimum. Generally speaking, the more participants in a meeting, the harder it is to get things done. Therefore, restrict attendance strictly to those who are directly involved in the issues under discussion. One rule of thumb is that most meetings should have no more than 10 participants. While there are obviously exceptions to this rule, the takeaway is that careful attention should be paid to the number of meeting participants to ensure maximum efficiency when planning a meeting.
Stress Participant Engagement
A good meeting is one that engages as many participants as possible. One way to do this is to get people involved. A tried and true way to encourage participation is to start off a meeting by going around the room giving each participant a chance to speak. This could take a variety of forms, including:
- Describing a recent success
- Providing analysis of the most significant challenges the group is likely to face
- Introducing themselves and their specialty or topic of expertise
- Explaining what they would like to get out of the meeting
Another way to generate participation is to request feedback throughout the course of the meeting. You can also call on specific participants during a meeting so that they can share their expertise on a particular topic.
Another approach is to incentivize participation by offering rewards of some sort as a motivation. These could take the form of points for thoughtful comments, or for each new idea a participant puts forth for consideration. Prizes don’t necessarily need to be all that expensive – a snack bar, gift certificate or something similar could be sufficient. Instead of a prize you could also offer some sort of recognition to the leading idea providers. The more participation you elicit the more successful the meeting is likely to be.
Use Visuals to Make Meetings More Productive
There is a reason that the media is suffused with images, whether videos, pictures, or some combination of the two. Visuals naturally attract attention. As a result, you should make every effort to incorporate visuals of some sort in your meetings. These can take a variety of forms, including:
- Short video presentations
- Online whiteboards that allow collaborative drawing.
- Conceptual maps, also known as mindmaps, or flow chart illustrations
Use visuals to illustrate crucial concepts and conclusions. Especially in long meetings, visual cues can help keep participants focused on a presentation. Use them strategically, for instance to punctuate long periods of discussion or instruction.
Have a Clearly Defined Agenda
An otherwise productive meeting can easily be sidetracked by off-topic discussion if you don’t establish an agenda in advance. The agenda should clearly define the purpose of the meeting and specify in detail the topics to be covered. It should also identify who will be leading the discussion at each point of the meeting.
The agenda should also feature action items. These are decisions to be taken or conclusions to be made at the meeting. They generally involve deciding who will do something and by when they will do it. Meetings which use up a lot of time without identifying any action items can be counterproductive, wasting otherwise useful employee time.
To keep meetings productive, the agenda should specify the decision parameters for each action item. This avoids situations where an item is discussed during a meeting but no firm decision is reached. By specifying that a decision such as either to go forward with an action item or abandon it will be made at the meeting you ensure that everyone stays focused. This is how productive team collaboration should happen and don’t be afraid to search for ways to improve it.
Hold Virtual Meetings
In this day and age, gathering everyone together for a meeting on a regular basis can be difficult. The time and expense involved in having employees travel to a meeting can be extensive, especially for companies with widely dispersed facilities. With more employees working virtually, even companies operating at centralized locations may find that gathering staffers together for physical meetings may be less productive than doing so virtually.
By holding meetings where remote employees can call in from their mobile phones or log-in via their computer or other devices, much of the productivity sacrificed to travel can be eliminated. Employees who are traveling can connect from a hotel, airport, or even while traveling in a car. Various meeting apps such as GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, or Skype make it easy to conduct virtual meetings.
Nuvro is a robust online project management tool that can help make meetings productive and keep the agenda specific and to the point. With Nuvro you can gain control and peace of mind over all of your projects, tasks, team members, workload and everything else important to your company. In addition to the project, task and collaboration features found in most PM tools, Nuvro also provides a company dashboard, a team dashboard, team member performance reviews, secure document management, an internal alternative to email and more. Nuvro is perfect for busy teams looking to accomplish more. Learn More…