How To Prevent Meetings From Draining Your Company’s Time

Jan 27, 2017     By Neya Abdi

Meetings are tricky things. They can be both logistically necessary and a serious time drain. And in a world where time is money you simply can’t afford to run an enterprise where your talent sits around and spends an hour “touching base”.

So is it possible to strike a balance between being collaborative and being productive when structuring meetings? Certainly. You’ve just got to be willing to put in the work.

Distribute An Agenda In Advance

This obvious piece of advice bears repeating because it’s often shrugged aside. Creating an agenda requires effort. Sending it out in advance takes time. This means that organizers leave it to the last minute only to put it off until the next meeting.

Here’s a tip: Don’t send out any meeting invites unless you have an agenda you can distribute at the same time.

Your agenda outlines exactly what needs to be discussed and the desired outcome. It does not need to be complicated, but it has to exist. This document lets participants know what they should think about before they arrive, what materials they should prepare, and prevents people from straying off-topic. A few bullet points defining your meeting’s purpose is essential.

Be a Stickler About Punctuality

Next time you set your meeting for 10 AM make sure you start it at ten o’clock on the dot. And whatever you do, do not recap what you’ve discussed for latecomers.

Waiting until everyone arrives to get started sets a poor precedent that leads your team to believe the meeting is not important. Being a stickler about punctuality also ensures the work day schedule is not thrown out of whack.

On the opposite end, make it a point to end the meeting on time. Being firm about this forces you to keep participants on topic and reach your desired outcome. If you think you’ll have a bit of difficulty enforcing this, schedule another meeting or a phone call for right after your meeting.

Make Your Meetings Exclusive

A meeting plus a lot of unnecessary people equals a super unproductive time. How do you make sure you’re not inviting too many people?

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has an interesting approach to keeping the number of attendees low known as the “two pizza rule”.

It’s simple really: Don’t have a meeting where two pizzas can’t feed everyone present. He uses this rule to avoid inefficiency and to avoid the groupthink that occurs when too many people gather to make a decision.

Use this culinary guideline as a rule of thumb until you get the hang of editing your meeting guest list.

Work Towards Actionable Outcomes

A meeting that ends with nothing more than a resolution to continue the discussion at another meeting is a waste of time. Full stop.

Aim for something actionable to come out of each collaboration. Naturally, big decisions cannot be made within the space of half an hour, but team leaders want to avoid rehashing the same conversation over the course of several weeks.

In this case, identify three obstacles or points of interest brought up in the meeting and determine what the team can do moving forward. What questions are some employees better equipped to answer? Who can look into potential solutions for certain issues? Whenever there aren’t any clear outcomes, assign tasks that keep things moving forward.

Demand Complete Attention

Employees may use meetings as an opportunity to check their email or complete other tasks, usually because they view the entire affair as a waste of time. This leads to an awful cycle of people not paying attention because they don’t think the meeting is useful which makes the meeting useless because no one’s really paying attention.

While it’s sure to be met with resistance, use your authority to introduce a “no electronics” rule during the meeting. After the initial resentment, you will witness an increasingly engaged team and more productive meetings.

Meetings are only as productive as you make them. Treating them as an open invitation event with no real theme is a recipe for a dull gathering that wastes everyone’s time. Create that agenda, invite the right people, and take punctuality seriously.

Luckily, there are tools that can help you make your meetings matter. Kutamo’s online meeting management solution allows you to track team member participation and statistics, receive instant meeting notes via email or SMS, and generate to-do lists and outcomes.

Meetings / Business