6 Tips to Make Meetings More Effective
For many office employees, meetings can seem like a chore. Even on a good day, meetings take valuable time away from other work that needs to be done. Meetings need to accomplish their purpose as quickly as possible, but also can’t sacrifice quality. For company managers who are trying to balance demands from both executives and entry-level staff, meetings can end up feeling like tug-of-war.
Whether you’re struggling with client meetings or internal strategy sessions, there are many things you can try to streamline your meetings and leave them with better plans and ideas than ever before. While some of these ideas may require tweaking company culture, they’re well worth the effort if you want to make meetings less of a drain on morale.
If part of your team being remote is an issue, creating spaces for them to meet and be productive as a team is important. Fortunately, there are companies out there making this process seamless by creating an easy way to find the right space for your next meeting. Whether your team prefers a quieter conference room type setting, or more of a creative, co-working space, you are able to find what fits your remote employees needs and desires.
Create an Agenda
Walking into a meeting without an agenda in hand is an easy way to end up wasting time. Asking individuals to submit agenda items at the very beginning of a meeting can seem like a good way to be flexible and meet shifting needs, but it can often result in a bloated list of topics that aren’t always urgent.
Emailing an agenda a few days ahead of time is great for getting feedback on what needs to get done during a meeting. Ultimately, the facilitator or another manager should make the final call on what needs to be discussed urgently and what needs to be tabled for another day.
The day of the meeting, present printed copies of the agenda. Printing an agenda instead of emailing it helps emphasize to employees that the agenda has been finalized. Only add things to it if they’re urgent and pertain to the entire group, not just things that a smaller group of employees can deal with later.
Disallow Electronic Devices
While allowing electronic note-taking in meetings may seem convenient, it can result in employees multi-tasking and not paying attention to the matter at hand. Even if employees stay off social media and other major distractions, they will still notice whenever a new email notification pops up.
Consider creating a policy that only allows electronic devices to be used by individuals running the meeting or by individuals specifically asked to take electronic notes. While enforcement of this rule can be relaxed in fast-paced offices where emails need to be read and acknowledged quickly, it should at least be presented as a guideline to all employees.
Of course, meetings with clients and other outside individuals can’t really be subject to these same restrictions. If some clients tend to be distracted by their electronics during meetings, try to lead by example by minimizing your electronic device use and by providing printed materials for them to refer to.
Use Printed Visuals
If you have any reports, graphs, or other visuals that attendees will need to refer to regularly, consider printing them. While emailing out meeting materials seems like a more time-efficient option, employees may struggle to focus on what the facilitator or presenter is showing while also keeping up on their own screens.
With bulk printer ink available online making in-house printing inexpensive, even high-tech offices can print reports as needed. Plus, printing out meeting materials will enable you to disallow electronic devices during meetings. Even if you elect to allow electronic devices to be used for note-taking and other tasks, employees often lose track of what materials they’re supposed to be looking at if they’re trying to keep them open in another tab while multitasking.
Avoid Group Brainstorming
Many companies like to invite employees to group brainstorming sessions to try to generate new ideas. While this seems like a great idea in theory, it isn’t that effective if done as a whole group. Employees tend to latch onto one or two ideas expressed early on and forget their own ideas while listening to what other people are saying.
Instead, encourage employees to write down and pass around ideas during the meeting if possible. This allows more free and independent thinking while still drawing from the ideas of others. Depending on your office culture, allowing employees to submit ideas anonymously can be even better, as it can help remove office politics from the subsequent discussions. You can also intersperse group discussions with 2-3-minute individual brainstorm sessions to give attendees space to think freely.
Ask Quiet Employees to Speak Up
Managerial and entry-level staff have differing levels of talkativeness. Usually, the higher-ranking extroverts end up dominating the meeting, while entry-level introverts may go an entire meeting without saying anything. Even extroverted entry-level staff may feel nervous about speaking up if they are new.
If group buy-in is necessary for a meeting’s success, or if multiple individuals in the room have important experience or knowledge to offer, a facilitator must work to make sure everyone has a chance to speak. Since the person in charge of the meeting may not be good at yielding space to the quieter members of the team, other managers shouldn’t hesitate to ask those team members for their opinions gently.
Of course, quieter employees don’t like being put on the spot with vague questions. Instead of singling out an employee with “What do you think?”, try to ask a specific question relevant to that employee’s experiences—like, “You worked on the ABC project, so how long do you think this new XYZ project will take us?”
End with a To-Do List
Sometimes meetings end whenever a manager has to run to another meeting, or when a rough set of priorities has been decided on. While managers often leave these meetings intending to divide up labor at a later date, it’s better to assign next steps while they’re still fresh in everyone’s minds.
When at all possible, assign immediate next steps to employees right away. Some assignments can be small, and some can be on-hold pending another manager’s approval, but they should at least be discussed and divided up appropriately. This can help prevent time-consuming back-and-forth email chains down the road after employees are no longer in the same room to discuss it.
Ultimately, making your meetings more effective will require some discipline, as it’s easy to slip back into old habits. Remember that the personalities of your company’s leaders need to be taken into account, as well, since they set the tone for discussions and overall team dynamics.