Let’s be honest – no one gets excited about meetings. In fact, stating you enjoy meetings will usually result in the sarcastic laughter seen here – yea, I just used a Mad Men gif…
Ineffective meetings aren’t just boring, they are a time sucker for employees who would rather be focusing on other work. But here are some proven ways that can turn your meetings from wasted hours into productive sessions:
1. Prepare an Agenda
Productivity starts before the actual meeting begins. With a specific agenda, you can outline the exact topics and action items you would like to cover with your team. This will keep the meeting on track and prevent tangents that don’t contribute to the discussions at hand. In our digital side of life, we there’s ALWAYS more to talk about, whether its you conversion metrics reports, overall PPC performance or straight up project progress updates, keeping it focused with an itemized agenda will keep the team from wondering off tangents.
Ineffective meetings are filled with employees who have nothing to say, which defeats the purpose of collaborating. Follow the advice of Al Pittampalli, author of “Read This Before Our Next Meeting” – let your team know that members who do not bring added value will not be invited to future meetings – I know this is hard, but man…it simply works.
2. Start on a Positive Tone
The way you begin your meeting sets the tone for your employees. Why not make it a positive one? Psychology shows that starting a meeting positively creates a more productive atmosphere, which will carry on through the rest of your meeting.
Jeff Weiner, the founder of LinkedIn, begins every meeting by asking employees to share a personal victory and a professional achievement from the last week. This tactic gets people talking early on, making them more comfortable to contribute later.
3. Use the Right Tools
If you notice a pattern emerging during ineffective meetings, examine the tools you are using to keep your team on track. Maybe following the traditional format of meetings is limiting discussion or inviting too many tangents.
Either way, there are tools you can implement to ensure your meeting is productive:
- Tasks and Statuses: Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook, has some great advice when it comes to productive meetings. She begins with a list of topics and action items. As they complete each item, she crosses it off and moves to the next one. This can sometimes reduce a meeting scheduled for one hour to just 15 minutes.
- Project Timeline: A large time waster in meetings is reviewing the status of ongoing projects. Dashboards facilitate collaborative work by showing progress in real time. Having your employees review current statuses before starting the meeting will allow you to jump right into next action items. Want a tip? Use Wrike, hands down the best project team collaboration & management software on the market.
4. Bring Back the Focus
All meetings have a tendency to spiral out of focus. Here are some strategies that ensure your team stays on topic:
- Parking Lot – The Parking Lot Method is an effective way to keep your team on focus while showing the value of contributed ideas. If a team member suggests an item that starts to lead into an off-topic discussion, “park” the idea by writing it somewhere visible and suggest returning to it later.
- Cut Meeting Times in Half – Gary Vaynerchuck, a serial entrepreneur, caps his meetings at 15 minutes. He feels that the time crunch puts pressure on his team to be more productive and focus on the important stuff, rather than just filling time because an hour was scheduled for the meeting.
- Quick Breaks – This may sound counter-intuitive, but breaks during longer meetings makes your team more productive. Creative breaks interrupt the monotony of traditional meetings and gives your team an opportunity to stretch their bodies and minds, coming back to the meeting refreshed and full of new ideas.
5. Eliminate Distractions
Focus during a meeting is difficult enough for most people. To eliminate distractions, ban these three things from your meetings:
- No Other Client Work – Research shows that multitasking can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time. Ask your employees to focus on just the topics at hand and leave other work at their desk.
- No Food – Lunch & Learns are bullshit, you know it, I know it, the vendor knows it – No one wants to hear the crunch of chips during their presentation or the slurping of noodles. Eating during a meeting can be (ans IS) distracting for others, especially if the food is loud or has a strong smell. People’s weakest skill is…drum-roll please… listening, so why introduce an indulgent distraction?
- No Cell Phones – Research shows that people feel annoyed when they see others on their device during a meeting. It can be distracting for the speaker, who knows they don’t have anyone’s attention if they’re staring at their phone. On top of that, if the CEOs of top 500 companies can stay off their cellphones at meetings, so can your team.
++BONUS: Lose the Table
Standing during meetings is a proved tactic to get everyone nice and awake and focused on the meeting. Recent studies (such as the one by Washington University in St. Louis) have shown that standing during a meeting has increased productivity, helping attendees focus and causing them to be more likely to contribute ideas.
6. Always Set Next Steps
The final step of your meeting should focus on what you expect from your team. To ensure your goals are productive, remember to keep them SMART:
- Specific: Goal should be clearly defined by what you plan to accomplish
- Measurable: Provide tangible evidence to judge once the goal has been achieved
- Achievable: Keep your goals realistic
- Results-focused: Focus on the outcome of the goals, not the steps to get there
- Time-Bound: Have an end date on when you plan to accomplish your goal
Want to continue taking your meetings to the next level? Productive Shop can help with management consulting and advice on team productivity for your digital shop. We turn exhausted teams, over emailing and a hectic environment into a well-oiled and happy collaborative machine (your team) that get’s things done on time, budget and keeps clients uber happy.