Let's be honest. You don't like meetings much, do you? Many of us believe it to be a waste of time; all talk and no action. It is seen as a disruption in the workflow and if it's a long meeting, then at the end, one will hear more complaints than ideas.
But, it doesn't need to be this way. By introducing some purpose, structure, and clarity, meetings can bring positive outcomes and create new ideas. Productive companies have productive meetings; the two are very much linked.
Compiled below are 9 secrets for effective and collaborative meetings. If you are a manager or team leader, you may want to implement these. If you are a team member, you can always make suggestions so that meetings really can become super productive.
Setting a time limit of 15 minutes really helps. The reason is that all the research shows that our attention span goes into a progressive decline if meetings last longer. It's not a surprise why TED talks have a maximum limit of 18 minutes. Get a timer for every meeting so that it goes off when the meeting is finished.
Create an Agenda and stick to it
If leaders make sure there is an agenda before a meeting starts, everyone will fall in line quickly. The meeting's agenda can be summarized on a handout, written on a whiteboard or discussed explicitly at the outset. Make sure each item on the agenda is clearly described and allotted a time frame.
It seems intuitive that we should meet to discuss important topics first thing in the morning. However, the opposite is true; people come to the office with a list of things they want to get done, so they remain focused on this list when forced to attend a meeting instead.
In general, afternoon meetings have a better chance of engaging people. Research shows that 3 PM on a Tuesday is an optimal time for weekly meetings.
"Two Pizza" Rule
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos instituted a rule: every internal team should be small enough that it can be fed with two pizzas. Managers can apply this rule to pinpoint the right people to invite to meetings and put a limit to the number of attendees. People in smaller meetings are far more personally productive.
Standing Short Meetings
Research shows that working standing up helps Improve Mood and Energy Levels. Participants feel less at ease and get things done more quickly. This a new-age way of having meetings.
High discussion tables and Standing meetings tables by Sunon are designed with this insight in mind.
Avoid Parkinson's Law
Work expands to fill the time available for its completion, it states. If we correlate to meetings, then we can safely say – Meetings expand or contract to fit the time scheduled.
There is no need to rush meetings just to give people some time back, but there is a lot to be said for ending a meeting as soon as the objectives have been met.
No Gadget Rule
Setting a few rules will help people to engage in a meeting. There are plenty of suggested rules, but these will differ from company to company.
It is much better to make the meeting area a smart phone-free zone and encourage people to leave phones outside in a basket.
Time to Prepare
It is essential to circulate the invitation and agenda in advance so that the meeting attendees can contribute new ideas and dedicate their time to the meeting.
For a regular weekly meeting, often 24 to 48 hours in advance will suffice. For a strategy meeting/new initiative meeting, it is a good idea to share details one week before.
Actionable Take-Away Points
Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss the next steps. This discussion should include deciding who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are. Otherwise, all the time you spent on the meeting will be for naught. This helps the meeting chair find out what information attendees retained and whether a certain topic needs more clarification.
There are no shortcuts to creating a new working culture, but we can at least work to introduce more productive behaviors. If you want more productive meetings, science says you should keep them small and short. By getting the right people on board and promoting timely yet engaging discussions, the productivity of meetings will be greatly improved.
Let's make our Meetings matter!
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