By Traci Shoblom
We’ve all been there. The meeting that shouldn’t have happened. The meeting that wandered from topic to topic. That guy in the meeting who used it as an opportunity to rant about upper management. There are few things more wasteful in the workplace than a bad meeting. But, with a little bit of planning and foresight, you can make your meetings more productive. Here are five ways to do just that.
- Don’t have a meeting
The best way to avoid a bad meeting is to not have a meeting at all. Far too often, meetings are called when the same information could be conveyed another way. The only reason to have a meeting is when the people in the meeting need to collaborate in real time to discuss an issue, make a decision, and interact with each other. If it’s a status update or some other one-way information presentation that can be accomplished by e-mail, you don’t need to have a meeting.
- Prepare Everyone Beforehand.
One of the biggest time wasters in a meeting is when the participants aren’t prepared beforehand. Make sure that each participant has received (and reviewed) the needed items. When you’re announcing the meeting, clearly state the purpose of the meeting and what people need to do beforehand. “We’ll be talking about the new video project, so please bring the Creative Brief with you, and have read it beforehand.”
- Watch the Clock
A common trap that many meeting leaders fall into is not keeping track of the time. If Bonnie from Human Resources is spending too much time telling everyone about Open Enrollment, the meeting is going to run over. Being an effective leader means managing the time and diplomatically keeping things moving along. If the meeting is supposed to be a 90-minute meeting, then keep it as close to that as possible.
- Have a Definite Ending
At the end of every meeting, the participants should be aware of the key takeaways from the meeting. It should be very clear that the meeting is over, and what the next steps are. “So, we decided to go with Steve’s recommendation on a video company, and that it’s going to be a two-minute explainer video. Marcy, you’re going to sketch out some rough ideas for the script, and Steve, you’ll contact the company for a price quote.” By giving everyone a clear wrap up to the meeting, there will be a strong sense of accomplishment and closure.
- Don’t Be Annoying
There’s invariably one person in a meeting who does something to annoy everyone else. From tapping your pen, chewing food loudly, interrupting, and even sleeping in the meeting, there are many ways to be an irritating team member. Don’t do it! And, if you’re running a meeting and someone is being disruptive, firmly but politely ask them to stop. If they don’t, you can ask them to leave. It’s one of the more challenging aspects of leadership, for sure, but keeping everyone focused on the topic at hand is critical to a productive meeting.
Bonus Tip: Choose Snacks Wisely
Another factor that’s not often considered is what type of snacks will be provided at the meeting. When attendees eat sugary snacks or have coffee, the energy level will boost at first, but participants could have a crash afterward. Instead, offer water, fresh fruit, or other wholesome snacks that will create sustained energy.