5 Ways To Make Meetings More Effective (And Less Dreadful)

Meetings are a necessary evil. Fortunately, these 5 tips will help make your next meeting more productive.
  • Cumulatively, 24 billion hours will be lost to pointless meetings in the next year, according to research conducted in 2019.
  • Meetings are a necessary evil. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make them more bearable (and for the sake of those involved, much more efficient).
  • One pro tip is to hold meetings in the morning. 70% of professionals agree that morning meetings are generally more productive.

How many meetings will you attend today? How many this week? How many this month? How many this year? Let alone, how many in your professional career?

Yikes. 

It’s a shared belief: everyone hates meetings… or dreads them to a certain extent. But why? Depending on whom you ask, some will argue they’re unnecessary, others will argue that most of the time nothing gets done, and then there’s the occasional few that will outright admit that they are boring. 

But meetings are productive, right? Well, not really; or at least, most professionals don’t think so.

A survey of senior managers highlighted in the Harvard Business Review found that:

  • 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. 
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking. 
  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

A survey by The Muse found that:

  • Executives view more than 67% of meetings as failures.
  • 92% of workers surveyed admitted they multitask in meetings.
  • 69% check their email during meetings.
  • 4% of people multitask during video calls while 57% multitask during phone calls.

And as if that’s not enough, Doodle’s 2019 The State of Meetings Report found that:

  • 71% of professionals lose time every week due to unnecessary or cancelled meetings. 
  • Professionals spend 2 hours a week in pointless meetings, which will add up to over $541 billion worth of resource in 2019.
  • Cumulatively, 24 billion hours will be lost to pointless meetings in the next year. 
  • 26% of professionals stated that poorly organised meetings impact their client relationships. 
  • 43% believe that meetings create confusion in the workplace. 
  • 44% believe meetings impact their ability do actually do their work. 

Unfortunately, meetings are a necessary evil. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make them more bearable (and for the sake of all those involved, much more efficient). 

According to the same Doodle report, the following elements make a meeting bad:

  • Taking phone calls or texting during meetings
  • Interrupting each other
  • People not listening to others’ contributions
  • People arriving late or leaving early
  • Not setting a clear objective
  • Having too many people involved
  • Not having a clear agenda. 

5 Ways to Make Meetings More Efficient and Bearable 

1. Always have an agenda

Not only is it important to have a clear agenda, it’s also important that you share it with all participants at least a day in advance. Doing so will give everyone enough time to prepare, gather their thoughts, and finish any tasks/projects that they need to have ready for the meeting. 

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Having an agenda is also important to make sure that the meeting stays on track. Otherwise, it’s easier for people to move to other subjects that might not be as pressing or that should be discussed in a separate meeting or call. 

2. Keep them short and sweet

Once you have an agenda, it’s important that you set some time for each item. Keeping meetings short will ensure that people pay more attention and will be less prone to distractions.

To make sure that you’re on time, use a meeting timer to keep track of how much time you’ve spent on each agenda item. Do bear in mind that there will be occasions when you need extra time for some items and less time for others; it’s important to remain flexible. However, if you see a topic is taking too much time and remains unsolved, consider scheduling a follow-up meeting for that. 

3. Keep them small

One of the most common mistakes is inviting too many people to a meeting. When organizing a meeting, invite only those individuals that are actively involved in the project or only those that have a say in the matter. If there are individuals that need to present something but aren’t key to the decision-making process, consider inviting them to present and then allow them to leave. 

Having too many people leads to unproductive meetings for a couple of reasons: more people means more thoughts and opinions, so it’s harder for everyone to agree; and more people talking means that meetings take more time. In short, the more people, the more chance your meeting will go off track. 

4. Take notes

Most unproductive and ineffective meetings are those where no one is taking notes and keeping a record of what is done, said, and agreed upon. Not only is note taking important, it is also — and even more important — that these notes are shared with attendees and all those that need to be kept up to date. Meeting minutes are a great tool so that everyone is clear on responsibilities, tasks, and deliverables. 

Pro tip: the meeting minutes should have take away action points. 

5. Follow up

Most people fail in this step. After you have a meeting, it’s important that you follow up with attendees quickly. The follow-up is useful to remind people of their responsibilities and deadlines, and they can be a great tool to answer any remaining questions or provide an answer that needs to be confirmed or double-checked. 

Additional tips

  • Keep in mind that the above tips should be taken into account only after you’ve confidently established that you actually need a meeting.
  • Some meetings can be walking meetings or quick drop-ins. 
  • Schedule meetings in the morning. Doodle’s research found that “mornings are overwhelmingly the best time to hold a meeting – with 70% of professionals preferring meetings between 8am and 12pm.”
  • Consider banning smartphones and connected devices (unless they are crucial to the meeting)
  • Start on time and finish on time; show people you value their time. 
  • Avoid scheduling meetings during meal times. 
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