Methods to Maximize Meeting Productivity
Anyone who has ever found themselves stuck in an unproductive meeting knows that it is in fact possible to stop time despite the scientific evidence to the contrary. We’ve all been there: the clock hands that refuse to move, listening to co-workers and bosses slip steadily off-topic within five minutes of the meeting start, hearing our work piling up as we are stuck in yet another directionless meeting. However, with a few simple steps, it is possible to nudge meetings back on track and have productive discussions.
Compose an Agenda
A productive meeting begins before anyone walks in the door. Composing an agenda and dispersing it to the relevant parties before the meeting gives everyone time to organize their thoughts, ideas, and comments. It encourages engagement before anyone takes a seat. Order your agenda by importance, starting with the most pressing items. This ensures that the biggest topics are given enough consideration during your meeting. It may also be helpful to include a statement of the meeting’s desired outcome: is this a big picture meeting, a decision, a recommendation, or something else?
Know what kind of meeting you’re hosting. Is this a short, weekly status update? Is it a brainstorming session? A discussion about a recent problem or decision that must be made? Are you wanting to make an announcement? Or maybe your meeting is a mix of several different elements. Whatever you intend, it’s important to set expectations up early. If you want group discussions, then encourage commentary and participation from the beginning. If a presentation dispersing information, or breaking news, make sure that attendees know to listen and take notes.
Facilitate and Mediate
Stay engaged for the entirety of your meeting. Attendees will follow your lead—if you have gone on autopilot once things are underway, they will follow suit. Make sure that you’re present and be prepared to take a hands-on approach as the meeting progresses. You may have to think on your feet and change the meeting’s trajectory if the discussion goes in an unexpected direction. Conversely, you may need to knock things back on course. Be an active participator within your meeting.
End On Time with a Call to Action
The attendees to your meeting have busy lives and work to do—you don’t want to find yourself wasting not only time today, but also a time in the future. Accept that not everything can be resolved in every meeting. Set up a plan to address items that were not discussed, perhaps even with a follow-up e-mail. Most importantly, before dismissing your attendees back into the workplace, make sure that everyone is on the same page about who is doing what by when. This provides a future plan of action, as well as revisiting your meeting’s earlier points.
No one will master the art of a perfectly productive meeting overnight. It will take time and practice. However, it won’t be long until you find that you’ve boiled it down to a science. When time isn’t being wasted and squandered, everyone will be happier and more productive as they go about their business.