Meetings are a powerful tool that are meant to boost productivity and efficiency at work, but often they do just the opposite. We’ve all been stuck in frustrating meetings that seem to last forever with no real purpose or goal. Thankfully, unproductive meetings can be avoided with a little bit of planning, structure and the right tools. Restructuring the way you run meetings will have a big impact not only on the time spent during the meeting but also on the actionable plans and goals achieved after the meeting. Take advantage of these eight meeting management steps and your meetings and your team will be more effective and productive.
Everyone's Worst Nightmare = Dysfunctional Meetings
The best way to kill productivity during your work day is to sit through a dysfunctional meeting that drones on and on and leaves you wondering: Why am I here?
After several years of contributing to my 401(k), I attended a corporate-sponsored 401(k) financial planning meeting about making smart financial investments. Eager to learn, I sat on the front row ready to take notes. At the beginning of the meeting, several people asked the speaker very rudimentary questions regarding the purpose of a 401(k) and how to set up an account. I stuck around for almost two hours only to realize we would never get past the basics. The entire meeting was dominated by questions from a few people that were new to financial planning. With a little bit of planning and structure this meeting could have been beneficial for everyone.
According to Wolf Management Consultants, half of all meeting time is wasted, with 73 percent of professionals admitting to doing unrelated work and 39 percent even dozing off in meetings. Think about the real-world costs for your company associated with unproductive meetings. Over time the amount of money wasted becomes astronomical.
How to Run an Effective Meeting in 8 Steps
Effective meetings need to stay on topic and usually run off of a schedule or list. In other words, effective meetings that produce results require an agenda and structure. Having a clearly defined goal, engaging and focused dialogue and follow-up instructions will ensure that each meeting runs smoothly and effectively, saving you and your team members time and money.
1. Define a Clear Goal
Creating an effective meeting agenda and sending it out in advance helps set the tone and focus for the meeting. Having a fixed agenda that you rigorously stick to can get in the way of organic conversations but having clear start and end times with outlined goals and topics for major segments of the meeting can help keep the meeting moving forward and on point.
2. Include Only the Right People
An important aspect of running effective meetings is ensuring you have the right people in attendance who can actively contribute to the meeting. For a real game changer, try to think of participants outside your immediate team who may be able to bring different perspectives and experiences to the meeting. In addition, make sure you include a video conference invite link in your meeting description so remote employees can easily join the call and participate face to face.
3. Engage Attendees
Make sure everyone in the room is alert and contributing to the goals of the meeting by keeping the meeting upbeat and engaging. Dividing the attendees into pairs or small groups with tasks to work on together will ensure everyone is actively engaged in the meeting. You can also energize your meetings with friendly competition among the groups. For remote employees, make sure they feel just as included as the people attending the meeting in person. Lifesize makes it easy for remote attendees to participate in the meeting and share their screens. The face-to-face interaction also keeps them focused and engaged during the call.
4. Create a Safe Meeting Space
To get diverse perspectives and insights, everyone in the meeting should participate, but often meetings are dominated by just a few outspoken people. Sometimes the best ideas come from the quiet employee who's not great at speaking in large groups, especially when there are bigger personalities in the room. Foster an environment that welcomes everyone’s feedback and opinions by balancing the participation. Provide opportunities for each person to speak during the meeting by regularly asking for input and inviting questions.
5. Keep the Conversation Focused
A team loses momentum when people start down multiple conversational tracks that veer off course. This is another reason why an agenda is important. If a topic comes up that is not on the agenda, ask the attendee to save the topic for the end of the meeting if there’s time or to address that topic in a different meeting. Consider using a meeting moderator who will give a gentle reminder of the topic that is being discussed when the meeting starts drifting off track.
6. Be Open to Feedback
Encourage attendees to find ways to make your meetings more effective. Let them know in advance that you will be asking for feedback so they can gather their thoughts and give helpful suggestions. Keep the feedback short, simple and positive. Instead of asking “What went wrong?” ask, “How we can improve?” This will keep the group’s focus on improving the meetings instead of pointing out flaws. Finally, ask attendees to give specific examples of how they think the meeting could be more productive.
7. Outline the Next Steps
It’s quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with completely different interpretations of what was discussed. To avoid any confusion, briefly summarize the meeting, remind everyone of the big-picture goal and make sure each person knows what their next action item is before the meeting is over. After the meeting, send out meeting notes, responsibilities given and deadlines to ensure everyone is on the same page.
8. Record and Share Meetings
With busy schedules, personal time off and conflicting events, it’s not possible for every employee to attend every meeting they are invited to. Managers will often share the documents or deck reviewed during a meeting, but presentation material reflects only a small fraction of what really took place during the meeting and completely leaves out the organic conversation and decisions made. Lifesize Record and Share allows you to be a part of the conversation even if you didn’t make the meeting. It loops in those who were not able to attend the meeting and serves as a reference or refresher for those who did attend. With Lifesize Record and Share, you get a robust video library that you can instantly view, organize, save and share, all from the convenience of your browser.
8 Tips for Effective Meetings
Improving your meetings doesn’t require a complete meeting-procedure overhaul. There are easy ways to structure meetings to make them productive and even enjoyable. Here are eight simple steps you can immediately implement to improve your next meeting.
- Designate someone to take meeting minutes
- Keep laptops closed unless presenting or taking notes
- Keep cell phones out of meetings
- Meet face to face over a video conference call
- Set a timer
- Summarize and assign responsibility
- Schedule shorter meetings
- Provide snacks or fun incentives for attending the meeting
How WP Engine Uses Lifesize for Effective Meetings
WP Engine, a WordPress digital experience platform, has six offices spread out over three continents. Since a large number of managers and team members work in different offices, they looked to Lifesize to bridge the geographical divide. By having Lifesize in each office and on every employee’s laptop, coworkers can instantly connect with one another and managers can effectively manage remote employees in one-on-one video calls.
The face-to-face interaction helps employees have engaging conversations and personal connections with managers and team members thousands of miles away. WP Engine also uses Lifesize for their weekly town hall meetings where they bring the entire company together to ensure all offices are on the same page and working together as one unit.
“By being able to jump on Lifesize, it just feels as though we are one team, one office working together seamlessly.”
— Sarah Jones, Sr. HR Business Partner at WP Engine
Meetings fill a large number of hours in a workweek, so it’s important you make them as effective and productive as possible. Effective meetings have an agenda, bring the right people together for a specific purpose and provide a forum for open discussion that delivers tangible results. Without these factors, a meeting can be a waste of everybody's time (check out our meeting meme post to see what we mean). Decisions, tasks and great ideas should be shared after the meeting.
Even better, Lifesize allows you to easily record and share the meeting to get those who did not attend up to speed and provides a great reference for those who did. With the right meeting tools, structure and engagement from meeting participants, you will have effective meetings that speed up processes and increase team spirit and productivity.