A productive meeting is one where all participants walk out of the room better informed about what’s already happened and they know what needs to happen.
Is that usually the case? Well with 71% of senior managers finding meetings unproductive and 32% of workers thinking it could have been an email… the odds are not in our favour.
Meetings are taking over our work lives.
This meeting could have been an email.
That was a waste of time…
These and many other variations of sentences are said after a meeting. With the rise of hybrid work and technology allowing us to have meetings anywhere, we find ourselves inundated with meeting requests.
It wasn’t always like this… maybe. Meetings could be thought as originally a place to gather at the Agora to hear news in ancient Greece (though, the word meeting had not yet been invented) and then eventually it became part of the corporate sphere.
Now, an employee attends on average at least eight meetings a week. Since working from home due to the pandemic, 70% of employees have experienced a 70% increase in meetings. The worst part is that of those meetings, only 11% are considered productive. With meeting fatigue affecting employee engagement, it’s essential to take a pause and find out how many meetings you’re running that are:
1. Necessary (Or could this be just an email?)
Following this, there should be a cull of unnecessary meetings and a focus on making the important (and only) meetings be productive. But how do you make it so?
1. Have A Plan
Having a plan or an agenda in place that is sent out before the meeting (and in good time at that) can significantly save time. It lets the attendees know what topics are going to be discussed and be ready accordingly. This plan is also a great framework to keep the meeting on schedule and, most importantly, on topic.
The last thing you want is for the meeting to become derailed, and suddenly you’re talking about a completely different issue and have completely forgotten what the meeting was originally about (and subsequently having to conduct a makeup meeting later).
Your Plan Should Include:
Goals of the meeting
Having clear goals and objectives helps guide the meeting and ensure that by its end, the required objectives have been met. Additionally, by outlining the goals, you can determine who needs to attend the meeting and whether a meeting is required at all.
If the meeting is crossing over different departments or you work for a larger organisation, having the participants and a brief description of their role would be ideal. This helps participants understand who is attending and what their role is in the meeting.
The topic/s of the meeting
To ensure topics aren’t missed, make a list of subjects that need to be discussed. Additionally, if there are specific questions or queries for each topic, be sure to add them underneath. This helps participants prepare for the meeting.
Timeframes can help the meeting stay on track and on time. It also helps the discussion remain relevant, and a bit of time pressure helps with productivity. This also applies to the scheduled meeting time. Make sure to start and finish on time.
2. Try New Methods
With revolutionary and new methods to reinvigorate meetings and make them more productive and suitable for different industries and work styles, maybe trying something new is just what you need. A little update never hurt anyone, right? Some of the most recent and different methods include silent meetings, Pecha Kucha, Dare To Ask, and Fishbowl. Of course, these are only some. Each team is unique, so you can make your own changes and tweaks to suit them.
Sweeping the tech industry, “silent meetings” seek to make the meeting as quiet as possible, with a focus on absorbing information (that is read) and then discussing it with the group. While reading the information, participants are free to write notes and questions down that can be brought up in the latter half of the meeting. This method has increased participation, which is especially important as 79% of companies across America have their meetings’ conversations and ideas mostly dominated by one or two people.
Is a Japanese presentation style that needs to adhere to the following rules:
– Maximum of 20 slides
– Each slide is up for only 20 seconds
To make this possible, the slides should always have minimal text, good images, and good design (for an image is worth a thousand words). Pecha Kucha helps the presenter stay on topic and keep the presentation interesting.
It also ensures that they know all the information (as they should only be writing a few sentences on the slide) and that they can explain it concisely and in an easy-to-understand manner. With each presentation lasting just 6 minutes and 40 seconds, you can drastically reduce the amount of time spent observing and watching rather than actually discussing.
Dare to Ask
Questions are important, but so many are afraid to ask! That’s why having a “Dare to Ask” format might just be what you need to encourage engagement and give everyone a voice. This type of method requires you to have a psychologically safe workplace culture. This type of culture is one in which people aren’t ashamed or ridiculed for asking questions, giving ideas, or making mistakes. Questions can significantly help meetings and drastically cut time after the meeting when participants may ask others one-on-one. This also centralises information. Chances are someone has a similar question, so this Q&A time can help significantly in saving time.
An interesting method is the fishbowl. This is typically done in large groups. This method involves having a small group of participants in the middle of the meeting room discuss, with the rest of the group just observing and listening. If they wish to add their own contribution, they merely tap themselves in (and swap someone out who isn’t talking) to add their own thoughts. This type of method, though, may not be suited for introverted or shy individuals. However, just like the previous method, this could be mitigated by fostering a psychologically safe environment.
3. Meeting Minutes
A written summary of the meeting is essential. With so many topics, it can be hard for participants to remember them all. Additionally, meeting minutes outline what needs to be done following this meeting. Considering employees are attending on average at least eight meetings a week, a simplified reminder is what participants need! It also helps as a record of evidence. Sometimes there can be conflicting memories of what was discussed or what was concluded; meeting minutes act as an arbitrator.
4. Utilise Technology
With hybrid and remote work on the rise, technology is essential. However, with the amount of time that is spent booting up technology or dealing with failures, it’s crucial to utilise technology effectively. That is, use it sparingly and only to help the meeting. It can be easy to get swept up in the latest technology, but it can do more harm than good in a meeting. You can use a transcription service to jot down the minutes of the meeting, use timers to ensure that you’re moving on to the next topic, and you may even ban technology altogether to keep the meeting focused. You need to assess what your team needs and act accordingly.
If you’re in a hybrid meeting setup, you may want to have a virtual whiteboard so you can all collaborate in real-time. If your participants are across the world, you may want to consider investing in technology to allow for asynchronous meetings. These types of meetings are for discussions that don’t need to be communicated in real time. It works by having one person provide information, and then the other participants take this information in and respond when they are ready (within reason).
The information can be in the form of written communication or a pre-recorded video presentation that participants can watch at their own pace.Technology can be either your saviour or worst enemy. Make sure to employ technology when needed, but exercise restraint. Half the time, you don’t need it.
There is a lot of software out there that can be helpful for your team. However, every team is different and as such, what works for others might not work for you. We have compiled a list of potential technologies, but of course, consider your team’s needs first.
Collaboration and communication platform. It allows users to chat, video call, share files, and collaborate on projects in real-time, all within one centralised platform.
Communication and collaboration platform designed for teams to communicate, share files, and work on projects in real-time. It offers various features such as channels, direct messaging, file sharing, and integrations with other tools to streamline workflows.
Social networking platform designed for enterprise communication. It enables employees to connect, share information, and collaborate across departments and locations in a secure and centralised environment.
Project management tool that helps teams manage tasks, projects, and workflows in a visual and customisable way. It offers various features such as boards, timelines, calendars, and integrations with other tools to streamline work processes and increase productivity.
Video messaging tool that enables users to record and share quick video messages with their teams, customers, or followers. It offers various features such as screen recording, video editing, and real-time messaging to make communication more engaging and efficient.
Note-taking and collaboration tool. It enables users to centralise meeting notes, action items, and decisions in one place, and integrates with other tools such as Slack, Zoom, and Jira to streamline workflows.
5. Evaluate. Re-Evaluate.
There’s no such thing as a perfect meeting. Evaluating and re-evaluating meetings is crucial to keeping them fresh and productive. Also, as people leave and join the company, the dynamics may change. So, use the plan and meeting minutes to see if there are things that have been missed or patterns. They can help significantly in guiding future meetings. Additionally, talking with your participants and getting their thoughts can help.
Meetings should be used sparingly and productively. Just remember: quality over quantity. So before you send that meeting request, think about what the main objectives are. What do you want out of this? And based on this, what would be the best approach method-wise? Furthermore, once the meeting is over, will I be able to summarise it clearly and concisely?