5 tips to dramatically improve meeting efficiency at your company

Research shows that the average professional attends 62 meetings per month, and half of the time spent in meetings is time wasted.

When I conduct interviews with clients, one of the most common complaints of the people I talk to in corporate environments is the time individuals spend in meetings, that they often feel is wasted because the objective of a meeting is not clear, discussions go round in circles, decisions are being taken or it’s not clear why they had to attend the meeting.

I myself worked in a corporate environment and at some point I felt I was spending my entire workweek running from one meeting to another, most of the time being clueless what the actual purpose of a meeting was, leaving me with no time left to do my actual job.

On an individual level this becomes a real burden at one point – you are both unable to get your real job done and you find yourself reading and answering emails and calls in the early mornings, late evenings and the weekend. And when you get fed up with that, you simply start using meeting time to do work that can be done on a computer.

I think I am not the only one who is guilty of sitting in a meeting, laptop open and mobile phone at hand, working my way to the heaps of messages that need a response. Messages that are being sent because it is impossible to get hold of people in person because they are away in meetings most of the time.

And because you end up in a situation where meeting attendants are no longer really focussing on the actual meeting, the meetings itself become less and less effective.

On a company level, just think for a minute what this catch 22 is costing your organisation.

So, how to break the circle? In theory, it is painfully simple. Here are some of the things you can do to instantly improve the quality of your meetings:

1.      Leave mobile phones and laptops out of the meeting room

Whatever the reason people are unable to leave their devices alone, it’s keeping them from focusing on the meeting and connecting with the people in the room. Did you know that it takes about 15 minutes to refocus after handling incoming email? It’s amazing to see the dynamics in a meeting change the moment the participants are truly connected. It enables to diminish the actual duration of a meeting, and to greatly improve the quality of the discussions and outcomes of a meeting.

2.      Carefully consider what the objective of your meeting is

Very often, it is not clear for both the organiser and the participants of a meeting what the actual purpose of a meeting is. Do you want to share information, gather opinions, or take decisions? This is a key point for the next step

3.      Less is more, especially when it comes to the number of people in a meeting

The more people are present in a meeting, the less effective meetings become. Once you are clear on what the purpose of a meeting is, it’s time to think about who really needs to attend it. For instance, if a meeting is called to take decisions, make sure the decision makers are gathered around the table. If you want to share information, it can be worthwhile inviting representatives of various stakeholder groups in the meeting, and ensure that they will share information to relevant people instead of having them all in the room.

4.      Make a detailed meeting agenda. Always.

For every agenda topic, write down the timing, what participants need to prepare and what the expected outcome of that particular topic is. Be precise. It helps participants to know what exactly is expected from them. A detailed agenda also provides you with a framework to keep your meeting on track.

5.      Replace your meeting minutes with an actions & decisions log

In most cases, in a meeting you will agree on actions to be taken and take decisions. Sometimes, actions are embedded in the meeting minutes, which makes it very difficult to follow up on them and keep an overview of where you stand with those. And very often, decisions are not clearly documented, which causes confusion about what the actual decision was. Logging them in a list, in a brief and precise manner, will enable you to both follow up and communicate clearly on what was decided in your meeting.

These are really no-brainers, right? I invite you to take a look at the meetings you go to and see how you are doing. In my next post, I will share my thoughts with you on why it is actually not that easy to implement seemingly simple things that will improve your professional life in- and outside meetings a great deal. Feel free to share any thoughts or questions with me!

Author: Gabriela Schellekens
The leitmotiv in my professional life is CHANGE: From my very first working experience as a secretary to becoming operations director, throughout my entire career i have dealt with, supported and initiated change. Since I have dealt with change in various roles I can connect with people at all functions and levels in organisations. The effects of organisational change on humans are all too often underestimated and overlooked. My mission is to make sure that changes that organisations set out to happen actually do happen.

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