How to Make Meetings More Productive

By: Edmund Wang

If you’re a working professional, chances are that you’ve taken part in your fair share of office meetings. Meetings can generate ideas, clarify work direction and facilitate appropriate action, but too often meetings end up being unproductive and roundabout, taking up an excessive amount of time while achieving precious little. Here’s how you can master the intricate art of holding meetings with less pain and more gain.

Set Clear Objectives
Agendas are usually set for meetings (with an outline of what’s to be done and acted upon), but the establishment of clear objectives is often not. Having well-defined targets gives the meeting’s participants an unambiguous context to work in and clear goals to work towards.

Starting every meeting with a simple question such as, “What are we going to accomplish today?”, helps set the tone and focus and tune the attention of those present towards solving the problem at hand, instead of beating about the bush.

Abolish Monday Meetings
Next to mornings without coffee, Monday meetings are a bad idea. Not only are your colleagues sleep-deprived and grumbling about how the weekend flew by, they also have to clear any work-related emails that piled up over the weekend.

LifeHacker, a website providing simple work tips, reviewed over 100,000 responses to 34,000 events on their site and reported that ‘Tuesday at 3pm’ was the optimal time for a meeting. Cultural and accuracy issues aside, this raises the issue of finding the ideal time for meetings that best suits your organisation, which could dramatically improve meeting productivity.

Who Needs to Be There?
Meetings require a considerable investment of man-hours - inviting those who have little purpose to be there is a sheer waste. As a rule of thumb, each and every individual at the meeting should not only have a specific reason to be there, but they should also be active contributors.

If some colleagues will only have a limited role in meetings, try to arrange for their parts to go first, and let them leave after that – there is no point in making them stay for the remainder of the agenda that does not involve them professionally.

‘Standing’ Meetings
Although not always realistic, standing meetings, where sitting down is disallowed, are ideal for impromptu or short discussions. These meetings can be called quickly for people to catch up on project details or discuss small issues, all of which can be solved in 10 minutes or less.

Standing meetings prevent people from dawdling around and encourages the meeting to be carried out in a more efficient way (before the people involved get weak in the knees). Standing meetings also reduce the tendency for people to sit back and become passive participants, which are a common occurrence at many meetings.

Do you have other methods for making meetings more effective? Share with us in the comment box below!

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