Are Your Meetings Productive?

How many people do you know that are constantly tied up in meetings? How many times have you heard (or said) “I’m stuck in a meeting.” “I have meetings all day.” “Sorry, gotta run. I have another meeting.” I would bet money that you hear it every single day or live it yourself.  It struck me that maybe these meetings aren’t always productive. Someone gets off subject. Another person is late. And then there’s the attendee who is on their phone the entire time. We hold meetings to inform, discuss, review, update, and report. It all sounds simple, but if meetings are cumbersome, boring, redundant, or last all day for no apparent reason, the result negates productivity. It’s sometimes difficult to stick to the same process for meetings. But following the steps below can ensure your meetings are productive and keep your team motivated and focused.

Consistency Counts!

Create consistency for recurring meetings by scheduling them the same day and time every day/week/month and the duration of the meeting should remain the same. Your meeting attendees will feel accountable because they know when the next meeting will be held and when their assigned tasks will be due. The first item on the agenda should always be to review the tasks that were assigned during the previous meeting.

Create an Agenda and Stick to it!

Your agenda should contain a list of prioritized topics. You may need to alter your meeting contents depending on your business needs; however, once you create your agenda for the current meeting, stick to it! And do your best to stick to the timeframe you have allotted. If you run over frequently, change the end time by 15 minutes. Ask that discussion items be delivered a day prior to each meeting. When you are gathered, if every other person has a new issue to bring up that is not on the agenda, you will never tackle the items at hand. You will regularly be off subject. New issues or urgent matters not on the agenda should be deferred until after the meeting in a separate conversation if possible. This ensures you stay on topic and stick to the agenda. It also shows attendees that you value their time by not discussing items that don’t apply to them during the meeting.

Illustration of a meeting

Stay on Subject

As you review each agenda item, let the person responsible speak to each item without interruption. Once they are finished, you can address any questions you may have. Anyone can ask questions, but only one person at a time. Multiple people speaking at once can create chaos, extend the meeting, and ultimately delay a productive outcome. Consider assigning a mediator and note taker.

Resolve or Defer

As mentioned previously, we hold meetings to inform, discuss, review, update and report. Once that has occurred with an agenda item, it’s time to move on. To do that successfully, each item must be resolved or deferred. Resolving doesn’t mean the item is removed from the next meeting agenda or never discussed again. It means that the item has been discussed or reviewed satisfactorily for today. It can then be removed from the next meeting agenda or added again for a future update. If none of this happens, and the items needs to be resolved quickly, defer it. It can be deferred to someone else. It can be deferred to a separate discussion. It could require an additional person to resolve, etc. Check it off the list for this meeting and make notes on how you will proceed from there.

Review Assigned Tasks

During your meeting, you will likely assign new tasks. Before concluding the meeting, have your note taker review the items discussed and the tasks that were assigned. Sending out notes and assigned tasks after the meeting can also be helpful. This ensures no one is confused on the tasks they should be performing.

Allow Every Participant to Speak

At the end of your meeting, give each team member a few minutes to speak.  They are not required to speak but giving them the opportunity means everyone has the chance to ask a question or let their voice be heard.  If needed, gently remind them their comments should be brief. Anything else should be deferred. Always end your meeting on a positive note and thank them for attending. “I know this was a tough meeting, but we’re all in this together and we can find a resolution together”. This ensures people leave the room with a positive, not negative, attitude. It boosts morale and motivates them and helps your attendees feel appreciated, especially in the down times.

Set yourself up for success by following the above steps to ensure your meetings are productive and meaningful.