Few people are eager to attend meetings at work. Many simply see them as time sinks that they need to get through so that they can get to the more important work they need to do.
But, if handled properly, meetings can help teams to perform better and actually increase productivity. Here are some ways to improve your meetings.
1. Do you need it?
The first question to consider is whether or not you even need to hold a meeting. Often, many of the issues that you plan to cover in a meeting can be dealt with through other channels, such as email or phone call.
You need to be clear about why you’re having the meeting and exactly what you want to achieve. You should draw up an agenda that spells out exactly what will be covered, and everyone who is expected to be at the meeting should receive the agenda beforehand.
2. Don’t go too long
Research has found that after about 30 minutes, people tend to lose interest in what is going on. So you need to stay focused on the important items and not wander off into discussions about nonessential matters.
Cover the most important items first because issues brought up at the beginning of a meeting tend to get more attention. And if you absolutely have to go longer than 30 minutes, make sure to include breaks.
Make sure you follow the agenda. If someone wants to discuss something not on the agenda, make a note to address the issue at some other time.
3. Focus on outcomes
The focus of the meeting should not be on processes or procedures but on goals and solutions. People are at the meeting to generate ideas and solve problems. You don’t want to get lost in storytelling or anecdotes unless they can help you reach a goal.
4. Ditch disagreements
If disagreements arise and they cannot be handled at the meeting, don’t waste time trying to resolve the issues at the meeting. Schedule another time for handling the problem.
Also try to focus on particular, concrete problems rather than talking in generalities and more abstract terms. Deal with actual problems that people are having. When discussing problems, try to avoid emotions and stick with facts and evidence.
5. Summary and deadlines
At the end of the meeting, you need to summarize what was accomplished and what goals were met. You also need to decide what comes next, how you build on the outcomes of the meeting, and you need to establish deadlines.