In the last week, have you ever sat in a meeting and asked yourself why you were even there to begin with? Thought about how much more you could get done if the meeting hadn’t gotten in the way? Stared at the clock as you waited for it to finally end? Chances are, you have.
We have all seen the “office meeting” clichés. A PowerPoint presentation in a stale, gray office as bored faces line a conference table. The constant chime of another person joining a conference call, while another forgets to hit the “mute” button. These days, many meetings have a tendency to drag on or stray off course quickly.
Coordinating a meeting is manageable when your team is small. However, as you grow, so does the likelihood of inefficient and ineffective meetings. Your day is busy enough and the last thing you can afford is unproductive meetings slowing you down.
Here are a few approaches for optimizing your meetings to ensure time isn’t wasted and that your company is as productive as possible:
1. Establish a Tradition
If your team only encompasses two or three people, scheduled meetings are often unnecessary. As you grow, however, it’s beneficial to set reoccurring meetings with your staff and establish a strong foundation of company cultural norms.
When scheduling your meetings, plan to meet at the same time and date early in the week or month. This can go a long way in establishing a lasting company culture and keeping your staff, and you, on point.
2. Turn It Off
Meetings, just like the dinner table, can be ruined by social media, texting and finishing up overdue projects. Establish—and enforce—a policy that prevents your staff from staring off into an LCD screen abyss. Remember, this works both ways. Morale can significantly degrade if your employees are presenting or offering their suggestions to deaf ears. Set the example here, and the benefits will surprise you.
3. Envision Your Goals
Generally speaking, you should aim to have an agenda one day in advance of the meeting. A clear outline keeps the meeting sharp, to the point, and on schedule. Contrary to popular belief, a minimalist all-hands meeting is exactly how your meetings can go off topic and turn into chatter.
As much as you can, avoid data and focus on top themes or benchmarks. Use this time to share and review everyone’s upcoming goals and ongoing projects. Your employees should leave knowing the “Who, What, and When” of each meeting. Who is responsible for which specific tasks, what should that person do, and when should they deliver. This can also serve as a good reminder tactic to avoid deliverables falling through the cracks.
4. Increase Staff Involvement
Have you come so far that you can’t have all your staff in the room? A simple rule of thumb used by Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, “Two Pizza Rule” can help. If two pizzas can’t feed everyone in the room, the meeting is too big.
The number one meeting killer is one person rambling on while everyone else catches up on missed sleep or unread emails. You may be an engaging orator, but everyone’s attention span has its limits. It’s helpful to establish a rotating manner that allows your staff the opportunity for increased involvement, pitching ideas, discussing their personal goals and brainstorming different approaches.
Where possible, try and engage everyone around the table. Even over conference calls, occasionally ask members of your team for their input or thoughts. This will keep everyone on their game and the conversation going.
5. Finish Strong
Let's be honest. Most meetings can devolve into a series of suggestions, action items and proposals. Keeping everyone on the same page is key to productivity. Assign a member of your team to circulate to the group a list of all action items, who is handling and what the deadlines are. When everyone has full visibility to the project at hand, no one is left in the dark. As a bonus: your whole staff will be taking notes just in case they are called upon to be the next meeting’s "scribe." Follow up after the meeting with brief minutes or talking points could be the key your meetings are lacking.
6. Have Fun
Don’t forget to have some fun. You can use this opportunity to give your staff something to look forward to every week. The days of traditional and stiff corporate culture are numbered. Avoid creating a reoccurring staff meeting that leaves everyone dreading Mondays more than they already do. Create a loose, but professional, setting where your staff are walking out of the conference room ready to meet their goals instead of escaping through social media.
What about setting a weekly theme or goal for the week? Something lighthearted but keeps people engaged and interested. If your agenda doesn’t typically vary, kick it off with a joke or a fun fact. Maybe have a treat for your team for each recurring meeting. Bagels, candy, whatever it is – having a small token can further motivate people to attend the meeting (and be punctual!). You’ll be surprised how many of your employees will want to help take the lead each week.
Remember, your team rarely has an opportunity to sit together at once to focus on your priorities. Make this time count! If you are dreading these meetings, your team can see it and interest will fade. Get enthused, collaborate, develop a plan and don’t forget to have fun.