Productive Meetings

Meetings. Many in the business world consider them a necessary evil and if you are trying to hone your productivity levels, taking time out for a meeting might just be the last thing you want.

There are many different ways to make your meetings more efficient. As technology has increased and people are encouraged to ‘work smarter, not harder,’ the face of the traditional meeting has evolved. The revamped meeting style has been embraced by companies in all phases of development, from startups to major corporations.

There are three major components to a successful meeting which are well-received.

1) Plan for the end.

Before the meeting even begins, it should have a clearly defined end time. By doing away with the open-ended meeting time, an organizer not only shows that he or she respects other people’s schedules, but a concise meeting time discourages people going off-topic or being unnecessarily long winded.

2) Have a point. And an agenda.

Agendas are a great tool to keep people on topic while explaining the objectives of the meeting in black and white.  Be sure to circulate meeting’s agenda at least 24 hours before the meeting begins, this gives all participants a chance to evaluate if they need to be in the meeting or prepare for the meeting.

3) Create actions & accountability

Don’t fall into the trap of concluding a meeting without identifying the next steps, or action items, and assigning these responsibilities to attendees. This forces the forward-thinking approach and holds both meeting organizers and attendees accountable.

A look into how other companies perform their meetings.
Ever wonder how the great companies of the world hold their meetings?  Drake Breer, the Ideas Editor for Business Insider, highlighted three areas where Apple’s Steve Jobs kept his meetings productive. First, Jobs kept his meetings to a limited number of attendees, reportedly dismissing extra attendees when he deemed them unnecessary. Next, Jobs made sure someone was responsible for each item on a meeting agenda. It increases accountability and ensures that no project or task is overlooked. Finally, he banned formal presentations from meetings, putting the responsibility on attendees to address team members face-to-face without ‘hiding’ behind a PowerPoint..

Google’s approach to meetings complements Apple’s meeting style in that they limit meeting attendees and assigning a clear decision maker in each meeting.

Dustin Moskovitz talks about how at Asana they follow a policy of no meetings on Wednesday.  It’s pretty simple, no one in their organization is allowed to have either an external or internal meeting on Wednesdays.  A full day of work with no distractions.

Percolate, a technology-based marketing company, adheres to their meeting approach so well, their six meeting rules have circulated throughout the Internet.


Spice things up a little.
There’s nothing that mandates that meetings need to be a bland, tension-filled gathering in a stuffy boardroom. Make it fun. Although, it’s not practical always hold meetings offsite, take advantage of a warm spring day by gathering at the company picnic tables every once in awhile. Or bring a plate of cookies and coffee.

Alexander Kjerulf, bestselling author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5 advises meeting organizers to do away with tables. By holding a meeting with only chairs for participants, people are encouraged to get up and move around, thus enhancing the flow of creativity and communication.

Besides insisting on five-minute breaks every hour, Kjerfulf advises a two-minute break every half hour to do something silly. Tell a joke, play a few quick rounds of rock-paper-scissors or something else non-work-related.

Do you need to be there?
While meetings are important, they might not all be important for your purposes. The best, most creative, food-laced, humor-filled meeting is ideal if it is a meeting you need to be in. However, how many times have you sat in meetings where you fiddled around with your smart phone (admit it: we all do it!) and wondered for the umpteenth time why you are there.

Take advantage of meeting agendas and determine if you need to be involved. What would happen if you got tied up in traffic after lunch and you missed the meeting? Are you directly responsible for any of the line items or are you only asked to join because you just might have something to contribute? If there is no practical reason to be involved with the meeting, speak with the meeting organizer and politely find a way to bow out. Remember Steve Jobs’ determination to keep meeting attendance low? Maybe you are the 11th person in a meeting that only needs 10 members.

Even if there is something in the meeting that might produce something important for you, ask if you can review the meeting minutes or any other recap that is produced.

If your presence and input is still required, offer alternatives to the traditional meeting structure. Can you call into the meeting, recovering that precious time you waste when crossing to the other side of the building where the meeting is being held?  Within Google calendar you can easily add in video calls, as shown below.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 3.06.45 PM

The meeting structure has always been part of the workplace. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be an active participant in an archaic, time-sucking gathering. Just as you’re challenged to think outside the box in these meetings, apply that creativity to switching up the traditional meeting in the executive board room.

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