Meetings are the lifeblood of the workforce. They enable progress takes place, and work to move forward. However, more often than not, they can be overly inefficient or unproductive. Correcting this systematic problem is something we've set ourselves out to tackle at Do, our collaborative meeting platform that strives to bring structure, transparency and automation to meetings.
Our company has spent a lot of time talking to people and analyzing the sociology behind meetings and why they are often run so poorly. As a result of this research, we've been able to bring some key insights and takeaways to our work.
That being said, how do you get the most out of a meeting? The keys are to effectively communicate with your team members, plan in advance, and stick to your agenda. It seems simple enough, but it's amazing how much time and energy can be wasted by poorly-planned, poorly-executed, unnecessary and redundant team meetings. Taking your meetings to the next level will take some practice, but if you're committed to making it happen, the results will be worth the effort.
Here are some tips on how to maximize attendance and productivity at your next meeting:
Start With the End in Mind
- Make sure all of the necessary participants attend your meeting.
- Keep the meeting on-point, on-topic, productive and efficient.
- Follow through on the goals that were set, the tasks that were assigned, and the decisions that were made.
Let's talk about how these ends can be achieved.
Most attendance issues can be chalked up to nothing more than poor planning. First, ask yourself whether or not you're scheduling meetings at a time that everyone can attend. It's common sense. If you book meetings when people are busy, you're going to have a hard time rounding up the troops. Second, you need to start (and end) on time. If you or your participants seem to have a hard time sticking to your agenda, consider booking a separate time for brainstorming or open-forum discussions. Third, you should consider putting a reward and/or consequence system in place. For example, you could offer coffee and snacks to those who show up 10 to 15 minutes before the meeting starts (that's when they should be walking in anyway). Or, you could close the door the moment the meeting is scheduled to begin, leaving those who are late with no choice but to interrupt as they walk in.
Finally, send plenty of reminders to those who need to be at the meeting. People are busy and could easily forget. Make your meetings so easy to attend that it would be silly not to.
I've discovered a direct correlation in meeting attendance and productivity: If you have a productive, on-point meeting, your team members will be far more likely to come back next week. If it wastes their time, they'll feel far less inclined to continue showing up.
To ensure maximum productivity, the first step you need to take is to plan in advance. Make an agenda, discuss its contents with your team members, ask them what they think needs to be addressed, and distil it down into your final meeting plan that you can share with your team before the meeting even happens.
Second, remember to facilitate and mediate. You can't let things run on autopilot once the meeting has started. You need to help everyone stay focused on the task at hand. The same goes for guest presenters.
Finally, remember to end on time. Some issues will be resolved over the course of the meeting, while others simply will not, no matter how hard you try. But if you keep having these weekly meetings, you can always revisit topics in later meetings as necessary. You can also communicate with individual employees and let them know what you've decided.
Foster a culture of action. The whole point of a meeting is to determine who needs to do what, and by what date. If nobody does anything as result of the meeting, that time was wasted. There is no productivity when people don't take action. Meetings can be incredibly effective management tools when they are executed correctly. You're likely not going to master the art of productive meetings overnight, but if you give it some time and keep practicing, pretty soon you'll be able to get it down to a science. Plus, your team will be eternally grateful for that extra time back in their workday.
Jason Shah is the founder and CEO of Do, a collaboration platform that helps you run productive meetings.