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better meetings

5 Tips for Better Meetings That’ll Boost Productivity

5 Tips for Better Meetings That’ll Boost Productivity
Reading Time: 5 minutes

There’s constant pressure to get more done in less time, and distractions or disruptions can often impede achieving that end goal in both remote and in-office workspaces. This is exactly why meetings are sometimes a double-edged sword for working professionals. 

On the one hand, open communication and thorough oversight of projects are powerful for building a strong culture and keeping teams running efficiently; on the other hand, meetings can often become a waste of time if not well organized and structured. 

Maybe not all meetings are a drag, but they can definitely improve in one way or another. Here are five simple tips to positively impact how you plan, conduct, and review team gatherings and overall, how to make meetings better.

1. Ensure meetings have a purpose

Oprah Winfrey kicks off her meetings with three questions:

What is our intention for this meeting?

What’s important?

What matters?”

Hugo

It’s hard leading effective meetings if nobody knows why they’re meeting in the first place. You can help establish better meetings for your team by ensuring that there’s a clearly defined purpose. 

This tip can best be applied when planning and reviewing each team gathering. For the planning stage, outline why the meeting is needed and what conclusion you hope to reach by its end. For the review stage, consider if your intended goal was achieved or if you missed anything because of time, interruptions, or occasional forgetfulness. Even the review will assist you with future planning and help you determine whether those meetings really could have been an email instead.

Some teams have fixed schedules for meetings, and if this is the case, take extra care when penciling those team meetings into the calendar. Make sure that each meeting’s purpose aligns with your team’s overall goals and objectives for the week or month, depending on how often your reoccurring meetings are. If you have one scheduled, but there’s no specific goal in mind or important update to discuss, then skip it and inform your team that this time can be put to better use finishing up projects and meeting deadlines.

2. Make action items clear and specific

It may be evident that a meeting lacked direction or got off track at some point or another if your team has left the meeting wondering what’s next. This is why it’s essential to make sure that every plan of action following a discussion, especially a long one with multiple points or topics, is clear and concise. 

If your meeting doesn’t have a desired plan to be followed up on or lead to an expected outcome, then what exactly was the meeting for? To keep everyone on the same page about what to do once the session has concluded, get in the habit of appointing a trusted note-taker who’s in charge of writing down each action item and sharing these plan reminders once the meeting ends.

It might feel a little redundant or unnecessary at first, but it’s an easy way to help your team members share in the responsibility of recognizing important aspects of a meeting, even if it may not pertain to them specifically. Team building is also a benefit of this practice because it helps strengthen collaborative efforts in following through with proposed outcomes through practiced communication. It’ll also help meeting organizers know if their delivery was well received or if they can improve on conveying priorities and needs to the rest of the team.

Curious about how to take better notes in meetings? Up your game and be the note-taker everyone envies with these three suggestions:

  • Practice using shorthand, symbols, and abbreviations so that you can keep up with the conversation without losing important points.
  • Highlight or bold the most important pieces of information shared, like who may be involved, actions and agenda items, or what decisions and due dates have been agreed to.
  • Test out a template for note-taking that works for you so you can focus less on organization and more on providing an accurate and effective record of the meeting at hand.

3. Set a time limit – and stick to it

Let’s face it, we’ve all been in at least one meeting that has seemingly gone on for hours with no end in sight. If you notice that your team meetings have a tendency to go overboard, setting a time limit can be a simple way to make those meetings more productive. 

There are more important guidelines to follow when it comes to setting a time limit than just leaving or closing the chat window once the timer goes off. Having a clear timeframe for workplace discussions means being intentional with how you communicate the necessary points, share opinions and ideas, and come to conclusions in the time allotted.

If you’re the manager or leading the team meeting, you can start by setting the tone and making it clear from the get-go that you want the meeting to conclude within a certain amount of time. This external reminder helps keep discussions on track, but it’s also important to be mindful of the momentum of information shared so as to not cut the meeting just shy of solving any real problems just because the timer said so.

4. Establish rules for effective meetings

While effective meeting behaviors will vary depending on the kind of meeting you’re hosting, there are a few basic rules of thumb that can help make any meeting more productive. 

  • First, make sure that not only you but everyone involved has time to prepare for the meeting. This could mean sending relevant information to the discussion and even assigning or at least making a note of any necessary action items before the meeting starts.
  • Second, it’s important to encourage a positive meeting culture. Make sure that every person on your team feels comfortable speaking up and speaking out during the meeting. This doesn’t mean that everyone attending the meeting needs to say something, but it’s important to provide an inviting environment for people to voice comments, questions, or concerns of value, and to have space for sharing information in general.
  • Third, meeting etiquette and cordial attitudes are a must for conducting a successful workplace discussion. If you notice that one or more of your colleagues is interrupting or dominating the meeting, you might want to gently remind them to respect everyone’s contribution and read the room for the appropriate times to interject and say their piece. Mitigating disputes with conflict management skills is how professionals facilitate effective and healthy decision-making within their teams.

5. Track the outcome of each meeting

If you want to optimize your meetings moving forward, you should start tracking their outcomes. This is an easy way to determine which meetings generate the most value for the company and which sessions could probably be shortened or eliminated altogether so that your team’s productivity isn’t taking a hit.

You could use meeting management software to help you define areas of effectiveness and weaknesses so that you can take an active and data-driven approach to improve your team’s meetings. There are even some platforms where you can choose customized meeting templates for the various types of teams and meetings in your organization to test out what works best.

If investing in tech isn’t ideal at the moment, or you want to try a more hands-on method of measuring the effectiveness of your meetings, here are a few things to track:

  • The timeliness of your meetings
  • Attendees, engagement, & participation
  • Time allotted vs. actual time spent
  • How many decisions were made or actions agreed upon

Better meetings mean better meeting outcomes

As you can see, improving meetings doesn’t require any major overhauls. With a little bit of attention, you can help your teams build upon discussions that are productive and useful. After all, meetings are supposed to be an effective way to bring people together, solve problems, and make progress.

With these tips in mind, you’ll plan meetings with the intention that leads to actionable outcomes that’ll no doubt boost productivity. With the right tweaks to how you conduct and participate in meetings, you can help guide your teams toward results.

Contributed by Mary Dominguez

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