Meetings can be a valuable tool—essential to team productivity and realigning the organizational goals of a company or business. But somewhere down the road they have evolved into these time-intensive, often impractical obligations that nobody bothers questioning, but steal large blocks of time in everyone’s calendar when in reality an email would have sufficed.
Meetings are how an organization says, 'You are a member.' So if every day we go to boring meetings full of boring people, then we can't help but think that this is a boring company. Bad meetings are a source of negative messages about our company and ourselves. – William R. Daniels via Fast Company
The following is an evaluation on meetings in the contemporary workplace, what you can do to maximize efficiency, and cut down on unnecessary meetings.
How to know if you need a meeting
First thing’s first, if it can be said in an email, it doesn’t need a meeting.
Additionally, if you’re looking for a status update on a project, there are other ways to get that information. Sometimes even a group chat is an efficient way to gather updates and brainstorm ideas. There are also many types of project management software that allow ideas and work to be shared and tracked easily without having to leave your desk.
Essentially, if the members of your meeting are going to view it as “downtime,” then it’s not good use of everyone’s time. William R. Daniels is a senior consultant at American Consulting & Training of Mill Valley, California. "Most people simply don't view going to meetings as doing work," he says in an interview with Fast Company. "You have to make your meetings uptime rather than downtime."
How to run an efficient meeting
- Have a designated leader: If you called the meeting, you should be keeping it on track. While everyone should be able to participate in a meeting, the leader is supposed to keep the meeting on track with an executive summary in case it starts going in the wrong direction. This way is also efficient because the person who calls the meeting knows the agenda of the meeting best, and can outline the points and end goal right at the get-go.
- Cut the time in half: When did one hour become the standard time for a meeting? If you only need 15 minutes to accomplish what you want—then only take 15 minutes. Better yet, take the time you were going to put aside and cut it in half. According to Executive coach Peter Bregman, if we know we have less time to complete a task, we become “hyper-aware” of the time we’re using and how we’re using it—thus, using our time more efficiently.
When things are moving faster, we tend to be more alert…we know that a single distracted moment will leave us behind. – Peter Bregman for Harvard Business Review
- Don’t get caught up in disagreements: If your end goal of the meeting is to come to a complete agreement, your meeting may never end. Everyone can support a decision without necessarily agreeing on it. A healthy debate is always welcome, but when it turns into a long-form discussion, it’s better to end that point with a decision and move on before too much time is taken up.
How to end a meeting
- End with a decision—not a discussion: The very end of a meeting is NOT the time to ask if anyone has any questions or comments to add—this should have happened at the beginning. If a meeting is left open-ended, the same points are likely to be carried on and repeated at the next meeting. The end of a meeting is a conclusion, so the last words should not be a question they should be a statement of the decision(s) made so that all attendees leave with a sense of clarity.
- Determine communication points: All attendees should be able to leave the meeting with a general knowledge of all key points and decisions made in the meeting. This way, they can communicate this information to those absent and/or any individual it may involve. Determining communication points is particularly important when a company gathers managers and team leads together to discuss information that is meant to be passed along to respective departments. Communication points should provide a quick synopsis of the key points discussed and decisions made.
- Go over action steps: In order to figure out what has been accomplished between the end of your meeting and the start of your next one—some steps of action need to be put in place to measure progress. It may be helpful to attendees to physically note them at the end of the meeting on a board, including who is responsible for what and what needs to be done before the next meeting.
And if your meetings are in dire straights, bridge your health and wellness plan with your meetings and suggest a plank meeting, where members of your team engage in plank exercises while doing a rundown on the meeting notes.
That way you guarantee your meetings are under a minute—and your core strength is through the roof.
For more ways to get the most out of your workday, check out 7 ways to stop being busy and start being productive.