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How to have meetings that aren’t a waste of time

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Think team meetings are a waste of time? You aren’t far wrong. According to The Independent, the average employee spends 13 working days a year in unproductive meetings.

Meeting attendees can often be found secretly working on other tasks, surfing social media or daydreaming—of those surveyed, 66% of workers made excuses to avoid meetings altogether.

Holding too many meetings causes employees to lose time better spent on value added tasks and creates an undercurrent of frustration which can impact workplace happiness. Here are some useful tips on refining the meeting process to make sure they support business efficiency and add value to everyone in attendance.

1. Ask yourself whether you really need a meeting

One of the most common forms of ‘over meeting’ comes from entrepreneurs or managers who aren’t confident enough to let their teams work without constant supervision. They set meetings to reassure themselves, rather than trusting employees to do the job.

If you decide that the meeting is truly necessary, make sure that you send invites with a purpose: is every attendee absolutely required or are you inviting people to cover potential eventualities, just in case? Each attendee should be able to see the value that they can add as a direct result of the meeting. If they can’t, perhaps they don’t need to be there!

2. Set and send your meeting agenda

Before you send your meeting requests, sit down and try to pinpoint exactly what your meeting needs to cover and the desired outcomes it will achieve.

This will give you a solid structure to follow when you all sit down together and also shows meeting attendees exactly how their time will be spent, rather than going in blind.

Try to send the agenda 24 hours before the meeting so that there is plenty of time for all attendees to read it and ask any questions they might have. You may also find that attendees have feedback or additional information which can help develop your agenda even further.

If your meeting is going to cover historical actions or results, you can save time by asking for the information to be shared before everyone meets. This will give attendees a chance to read in their own time and frees up the meeting for delivery of top-line data and for people to ask questions.

3. Learn to recognise when things are heading off course

It’s not uncommon for the subject to get derailed in a group meeting. Whether it’s personal chat or coasting off into a tangent, meetings have a habit of heading off course.
Set yourself the challenge of noticing each time this happens and redirecting your attendees back to the set agenda. If other issues or points have arisen, ask that your attendees follow up outside of the meeting or to ‘put a pin in it’ until later.

Remember to be constructive when you address derailed topics—meeting attendees should feel as though their thoughts and expertise are being taken into consideration (that’s why they were invited to attend in the first place!).

4. Assign actionable tasks

In order for your meeting to be considered ‘productive’, each attendee should come away with a list of tasks they need to action. These tasks shouldn’t be hard to identify, as they’ll usually crop up as a direct result of the meeting itself or be derived from the meeting outcomes you set in your agenda.

It’s helpful to keep track of all the tasks set and send a follow up email to ensure everyone is clear on what they need to do and when they need to have it done by.

5. Follow up

Assigning actionable tasks comes with the necessity of following up afterwards. If you don’t it could be assumed that the task wasn’t all that essential after all.
Following up could also include asking attendees whether or not they felt the meeting was useful and, if it wasn’t, what they think could be done to improve things. This will help you ensure that all future business meetings are as productive as possible.

Do you have any tips on how to conduct a productive business meeting? Let us know!

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