Are Meetings Productive? 5 Approaches

Meeting

One day at my last job, my coworkers and I sat in on a teleconference call. The company I work at has multiple locations across the country, so we worked remotely regularly. This meeting, we had gone much longer than expected. Though initially scheduled for 45 minutes, it ended up going 90 minutes that day. I recalled one of the coworkers looking like he pulled his hair off. I said to him, “You look like you’re about to pass out any moment!”.

That’s how boring this meeting turned out to be. What frustrated me the most was I had a lot of work to catch up on. The last thing I wanted to do was go to meetings that would take up so much of my time. I can’t imagine what else I could have been doing during those 90 minutes.

Let’s face it: meetings can be a necessary evil at work, and a colossal waste of time. Some individuals (including Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk) think meetings are unproductive and a waste of time. (I like Cuban’s thoughts on meetings- that’s how it should work!) If you’re going to have meetings, set limits, and stick to the topics related to the meeting. In this post, I will go over five ways you can reduce your meeting time while making them more productive. These approaches include:

1.) Keep meetings to a minimum

2.) Stick to an agenda

3.) Conduct meetings in smaller groups

4.) Keep the dialogue running

5.) Encourage employees to participate and be proactive

Approach # 1 Keep Meetings To A Minimum

Meeting 1

When it comes to meeting length, sometimes you need to take a “cut to the chase, let’s get straight to the point” approach. Meetings can go smoother and more straightforward if kept in a short time frame. Usually, after 45 minutes or longer, then people’s minds start to wander off, and they can lose interest in the topics discussed. I suggest keeping minutes between 30-60 minutes, but no more than an hour. After an hour into a meeting, then you may start losing valuable time for people to work on other things.

If you manage a team where you need to meet with them regularly, another suggestion would be to have a team meeting once a week. I know a lot of companies do this, and you can limit it to just one hour that week. After that, try to avoid additional time to hold meetings if it’s not necessary. You are having a one-hour session once a week would be an excellent time to discuss your priorities on a particular week. As mentioned earlier, utilize that one hour, you have to get everything set clear and straightforward about what is expected of your team that week.

Approach # 2 Have An Agenda & Stick To It

Meeting 2

One of the problems with meetings is not planning them out ahead of time. Meetings can go much smoother if there is some agenda to follow, with critical points to discuss. When we mention the idea of essential points, it’s vital to review any spots that need to go over in person. For example, if a project needs to get done, that could be an excellent time to discuss the purpose and who will be assigned to work on the project. On the other hand, minor things such as announcements or updates should be left out at meetings. They may be worth mentioning, but they can be a time-waster as well. An extra 5-10 minutes may not be much but can make a difference in how the rest of everybody’s day goes. Instead, communicate announcements and updates through email messages, one-on-one meets, or brief phone calls when possible.

Approach # 3 Meet In Small Groups- Give Your Employees An “Out”

Meeting 3

If you work at a medium to large size firm, it can be a challenge to get large groups to meet in person. If that’s the case, have meetings in smaller groups, and that can be no more than ten people sitting in a conference room together. More than ten people can be distracting, and not everyone would get to contribute that short time frame. If you held a meeting that lasted less than an hour, not everyone would get to talk or provide feedback if it’s in a large group setting.

Also, know when to give employees an “out” if their input is not needed. Sometimes, it’s okay to allow employees to politely decline if the topic is not relevant to that individual. That person may have a lot of work on their plate and may need more time to work on projects and meet deadlines. Allowing that option shows you respect that person’s time, and that permits them to work on their top priorities.

Approach # 4 Keep the dialogue going

It’s one thing to sit in a meeting, listen to others, and talk for 30 seconds. But facilitating a conference takes more effort. If you’re the one who takes charge of the agenda, keep in mind: you are running the show. It’s good to be mindful and considerate of others’ time with each other. Everyone is taking time out of their day for the meeting. So you need to make the most out of their time. Also, it’s good to have backup questions and other things in mind if the meeting is between 30-60 minutes. You don’t want to have long pauses or awkward moments of silence in your group. If you know what I mean, these moments are when meetings can be unproductive.

In my last job, one of my shift managers facilitated a meeting with my coworkers and I. To her credit; she was able to keep the dialogue going. When she would ask questions to us, she briefly waited and then continued talking about other topics to be discussed. I remember one of my coworkers said our shift manager did a great job with the timing. If it were the other way around, the meeting would’ve ended sooner. Moreover, if you have to finish a session sooner, don’t hesitate to wrap up and thank everybody for taking the time out of their day. The shorter the meetings, the better for employees to do work they are paid to do.

Approach # 5 Encourage Others To Participate

Meeting 4

If you want to make the most out of your meetings, let each person chime in and give their thoughts on the topic discussed. If someone is sitting in a meeting, they should be an active participant in the group and give their input on the subject. It doesn’t do somebody any good to sit around and not participate the whole time. They don’t want to walk out, feeling that the meeting wasn’t for them. Believe it or not, I think that has happened to me in some sessions I’ve sat in over the years.

I have to give credit to a senior-level manager who encouraged everyone to participate in a past meeting. This individual made it clear that he wanted to hear everyone’s thoughts on the topics we discussed. He did it in an encouraging manner, so it’s not like he made us uncomfortable or felt like he was forcing us to speak our minds. It’s moments like such as this time when I thought that the meeting was meaningful, and I got so much out of it. In other words, if you facilitate meetings at work, be encouraging and challenge your group to participate and give feedback.

Wrap-Up

Meeting 5

Meetings can be a drag for many people. The main takeaway is meetings can set a lot of time back for people who are behind at work. Not to mention the loss of productivity, but another reason why people work more hours than needed. It can result in overtime if they’re spending more time in meetings. By practicing the approaches mentioned earlier, they can help limit time while sticking to an agenda.

I want to know your thoughts.

Do you find meetings to be boring or engaging?

Do you feel going to meetings sets you back sometimes?

Leave your comment below and share it with others.

5 Comments

  1. Excellent advice! I worked in a small office, about 8 of us and when we had a meeting it turned into an hour long meeting when it was about one or two topics! Ugh! Everyone would start bringing up things that did not even apply to the topic at hand. Fortunately I do not have to work there anymore. Also with only 8 of us you would think the drama would be at a minimum, wrong! So glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore. Maybe my old boss should read this post! Great site and post!!

  2. Oh my!!! So much yes!! I can feel the anxiety just thinking about having to attend a staff meeting! I really disliked the late discharge from work after being there all day. Couldn’t WAIT to get home.

  3. I like the things you said here. I would also like to add that sometimes meetings can be fun, especially when there are brainstorming meetings. That way everyone is included and the meeting is fast.

  4. What a nice post you wrote! I really enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You for sharing this quality post with others.
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