One day at my last job, I sat in on a teleconference call. The company I worked at has multiple locations globally, so we worked remotely. Though initially scheduled for 45 minutes, it ended up going 90 minutes that day. I always thought to myself, “Are meetings productive?”. Recalling one of my coworkers, he looked like he was ready to pull his hair off. I said to him, “You look like you're about to pass out any moment!”.
That’s how boring it 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.
Are Meetings Productive?
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. 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.) Keeping meetings at a minimum
2.) Sticking to an agenda
3.) Conducting meetings in smaller groups
4.) Keeping the dialogue running
5.) Encouraging employees to participate and be proactive
Are Meetings Productive?: Keep Meetings At A Minimum
So, are meeting productive when kept to a minimum? 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. I suggest saving 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.
Have An Agenda & Stick To It
One problem is not planning meetings 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. 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.
Are Meetings Productive? Give Your Employees An “Out”
If you work at a medium to large size firm, it can be a challenge to get large groups to meet in person. In that 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. In 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 decline if the topic is not relevant to them politely. That individual 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.
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 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 have time for work that matters the most.
Encourage Others To Participate
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 encouragingly, 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.
Are Meetings Productive? Wrap-Up
So are meetings productive? They can be as long as you focus on your main points. 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.
Let me ask you: Are meetings productive? Do you find them boring, or engaging?
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