How to make your meetings more productive and meaningful

By Robert Half 19th June 2018

Do you groan each time another meeting request pops into your inbox? Another pointless meeting designed to waste your time and put you further behind schedule on proper work. Unfortunately, this is a popular mindset.

A new study showed that 65% of senior managers felt that meetings kept them from getting work done. Just under three quarters (71%) said that they felt meetings were unproductive and inefficient. Researchers at Georgetown have suggested that frequent interruptions, such as meetings, disturb ‘deep work’ (our ability to mentally focus on a challenging task). Not only do unstructured meetings cost us our productivity, they’re also bad for the business’ bottom line.

So, is it really possible to make meetings productive again? Absolutely. Here are a few changes you can make to your meetings to increase productivity and innovation, rather than leave the whole room wishing they were elsewhere.

- Create an open forum

People are unlikely to feel inspired or motivated when they anticipate being talked over or not listened to. If you truly want to innovate your meetings, make an effort to create an open forum in which all opinions are welcome and nothing is ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’. New ideas often come from unexpected places!

- Introduce a laptop ban wherever possible

Laptops can be a great tool for meeting productivity, but more often than not, they’re a distraction. It has been recognised that laptops are linked with a ‘task-switching’ mentality, rather than a ‘multitasking’ one. Meeting attendees only give half their attention to the meeting they’re in, while simultaneously using a laptop to work on other things. If your meeting can be done with pen, paper and discussion, try banishing laptops (and phones) and see how it goes. 

- Ensure that an agenda is circulated in advance of the meeting

Without an outlined agenda, it’s hard for meeting attendees to know what to expect. Let them know which points you’ll be hitting, what they’ll need to do in order to prepare and the input/action points you want to get out of it. 

- Catch unproductive talk and steer it ‘offline’

Unfortunately, meetings have the capacity to turn into a forum for passive aggression and complaining. It’s also not uncommon for talk to turn off on a tangent which isn’t conducive to the original meeting agenda. If you find this happening, put a pin in it and ask attendees to meet about it separately while you continue with the original meeting outline.

- Listen more

You’ve called a meeting to discuss an agenda, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also listen. If you’ve asked for input, give your meeting attendees room to articulate their ideas, thoughts and concerns. 

- Avoid last minute rescheduling wherever possible

Cancelling and moving a meeting last minute or calling one with little notice can hurt productivity for two main reasons: attendees have little chance to prepare and may forget the meeting altogether! Avoid last-minute changes if you can help it.

- Agree action points and deliverables before you adjourn

Before you call the meeting to a close, make sure everyone understands what their action points are and when they need to be delivered by. Each attendee should be able to leave the meeting feeling like they’ve come away with a meaningful task and a clear set of expectations. 

For more information on productive processes and initiatives for your business, get in touch with the experts at Robert Half today and see how we can help!

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