10 Tips for How to Run More Productive Meetings

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Are long, boring, and unproductive meetings sucking your energy, destroying your motivation, and eating into your valuable time, as well as lowering morale in your workplace? You’re not alone. I know I’ve forgotten key points raised in a meeting because there has been too much information coming at me at once. This can overwhelm you and make it hard to focus, leading to lower productivity.

But how can we make meetings shorter, more productive, and even inspiring?

Many companies have begun to inject a little fun into meetings. Soon, we’ll talk about what you can do to make your meetings productive and worthwhile. First, though, we’ll share a few interesting facts about unproductive meetings.

Let’s jump in.

Unproductive meetings: The facts

Still wondering whether it’s worth putting in the effort to streamline your meetings so that you’re not wasting time? These facts will illustrate the cost of unproductive meetings.

  • On average, UK workers spend about 13 working days a year in meetings.
  • People holding an executive position in a business spend as long as 18 hours per week in meetings.
  • Poorly organised meetings cost the UK $58 billion in 2019 and almost $400 billion in the US.
  • Meetings typically run for 1 hour.
  • The two most vital things you must do is have clear objectives and a clear agenda.
  • Most people believe morning meetings to be better than meetings held in the afternoon.
  • It has been estimated that as much as half of the time devoted to meetings is wasted.
  • 70 % of people said that they have taken other work to meetings.

Scary, right? But what makes a meeting productive?

A productive meeting brings together a well-chosen group of people for a specific reason and provides them an arena for open discussion. You can then make decisions, set goals, and come up with a list of ideas as to how you can all do your best possible work.

Now it’s time to discover what you can do to make sure none of these stats apply to meetings you lead or participate in.

People gathered around a table in a meeting.
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

10 ways to make meetings more enjoyable and productive

Here are some proven ways to make meetings a little more fun for you and your colleagues. Who knows? If you try out just a few of these tips, you may end up getting more done and reaching your goals more easily.

1. Set a time limit for meetings

If you want to make sure meetings are more productive, set a time limit of about 10-15 minutes. Research shows that being exposed to too much information decreases our attention span and gets worse the longer we are required to pay attention for. You have a better chance of remembering points raised in meetings if they are shorter. It looks like there’s a reason TED talks last 18 minutes at the most.

2. Stand up in meetings

When we sit down in meetings, we feel comfortable and automatically want to establish our authority in the situation. This is not so easily achieved if you stand during meetings. This serves to create an atmosphere more conducive to teamwork and makes people want to get things done faster. If you can work well as a team, you are bound to be more productive during meetings.

3. Only plan meetings when necessary

Don’t have a set time of day to hold meetings, or a routine you never deviate from. Productivity can drop simply because you have a set schedule.

Meet only when decisions need to be made, tasks delegated, goals formed, or progress reported on.

4. Write an agenda beforehand

You should have a clear agenda, even for brief meetings. If you can, you should send a copy of the agenda out to attendees before the meeting so they can go over it and come prepared.

For the best agenda, you will need to:

  • Ensure it is inclusive.
  • Make sure it is goal orientated. For example, if your meeting is to have a brainstorming session, try listing the outcome you expect in the agenda.
  • Seek feedback on it before you send it out. If you get chance, visit the principal attendees of the meeting, and ask if there is anything they would like to include on the agenda.
  • When you’ve completed a draft, run it by all the people that are going to be in the meeting, or at least the people who will be speaking in the meeting. If someone is unable to speak, you will then have time to choose someone else to fill in. When you send out the finalised copy to attendees, be sure to ask for RSVPs to avoid unpleasant surprises or delays.
  • Keep the meeting on track. If you planned for the meeting to last 30 minutes, you should make every effort not to overrun. If you have booked a conference room for the purpose, you should aim to finish with 5 minutes to spare so that you don’t delay those using the room after you.
  • Make sure people have a clear sense of what is to be covered and the expected outcomes.
  • Consider the number and order of the speakers in your meeting, and if you think you need to, allow time for a quick question and answer session at the end of the meeting to avoid unnecessary interruptions.
  • Ensure you send out any accompanying documents along with the agenda.

5. Ditch smartphones in meetings

Most people believe that using smartphones or tablets while in meetings is disrespectful and shows you are not fully engaged. They are also a source of distraction if not turned off.

It’s best to ask people to leave their smartphones at the door if you want to accomplish something in the meeting. This is what happens at the White House, so take a leaf out of the President’s book.

6. Limit attendees to those directly involved in a project

By doing this, you allow others to get on with their work uninterrupted. It also means there will be less potential for disruption, allowing you to conduct the business of the meeting quickly and efficiently.

7. Run a tight ship

It takes real skill to run a meeting well. To be successful, you should:

  • Clearly state the purpose of the meeting.
  • Encourage everyone to participate.
  • Keep things on schedule and do your best not to overrun.
  • Not allow any one person to steal someone else’s thunder.
  • Not allow off-topic interventions to distract you and make you lose track. If there is time left at the end of the meeting, you can cover some related issues then.

At the close of the meeting, everyone should have a list of things that they should act on which are their individual responsibilities.

8. Allow enough time to get to the meeting

It is crucial that you allow sufficient time for people to get to the meeting. Making sure people have about 10 minutes between engagements lets you and others have time to plan and get themselves organised.

Reminders can be sent to all attendees and a record of all decisions made can be kept ready to be sent out to participants at the conclusion of the meeting, including to any absentees.

9. Plan for the next meeting

After you have decided on a set of actions, it is always wise to create an outline for the next meeting and go over what you will need to cover. This will help you clarify your long-term goals. The plan need not be finalised but should align with the company, marketing, and business goals.

If one of your aims is to train some of your colleagues to plan and run meetings in their turn, why not delegate some tasks related to planning the next meeting during and after the current one.

You could decide who has the role of noting the action points from the meeting and keeping track of the agenda. Everyone could take turns to do this so that all have a chance to learn and develop their skills.

10. Don’t be afraid to experiment

Remember, you can hold hybrid meetings that include both in-person attendees and online participants, thereby making them even more productive. So, always be open to new ideas and never be afraid to experiment if something isn’t working well.

If you nail everything on this list, you’ll soon be running meetings like a pro, speeding through the agenda, and putting plans into action.

Wrapping up

After a little practice, you will be able to make sure meetings almost never overrun, and you will never emerge from an exhausting meeting with the sense that very little has been accomplished. Now that you know some of the sobering facts about how much time is wasted each year in meetings, you’ll know how critical it is to keep meetings short and sweet. So, why not try to follow some of these tips in your next meeting and see for yourself how they can make things run super smooth. You’ll all be back to doing meaningful work in no time at all!

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold an MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site, and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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