Originally posted on Mashable by Eric Hanson
This article is part of DBA, a series on Mashable about running a business that features insights from leaders in entrepreneurship, venture capital and management.
Think about the last business meeting you held. Was it dynamic and engaging? Did your employees furiously scribble key takeaways in their notebooks and leave fired up about their projects? Did everyone get a chance to contribute to a meaningful discussion?
If your meetings look like something out of an “online productivity” stock photo, then well done. For many of us though, our meeting reality looks a little more like resentful employees hunched over laptops, multitasking during a half hour of unstructured conversation. If that sounds familiar, read on.
In the face of productivity hacks and new apps that promise to save us time, we’re often overwhelmed by one more thing to check or track, and we become distracted during all-important face-time with teams and employees. Further, many managers are simply not taught how to run meetings well.
It’s no wonder that meetings get such a bad rap. Yet the executives in Mad Men wouldn’t have been able to come up with nearly as many potent or entertaining ideas if their brainstorms took place via messaging apps or over instant message.
With the right mindset, meetings can be the most efficient way to make a decision and the most productive part of your day. Here are six tips for putting your meetings into overdrive.
1. Define the purpose of the meeting and have clear, desired outcomes
Meetings should have a clear, defined purpose, and everyone attending them should know the goal in advance. With goals in mind, employees have a sense of purpose and won’t think of the meeting as “losing” 30 minutes of their day. For example, revamp your “weekly project check-in” meeting to address specific tasks.
Is this week’s meeting about finalizing the project timeline? Tell employees in advance, and ask them to come prepared with questions and deliverables that will help you clearly map out the project timeline by the end of the meeting.
2. Be thoughtful of required attendees
If the purpose is clear, it is easier to determine who really needs to be there. Does everyone on the leadership team need to come to a staffing update meeting, or just those who serve as direct managers?
Think about who you need and who will contribute to and benefit from the meeting. Let people know if attendance is optional, or encourage those who aren’t required to attend to send notes in advance via email.
3. Make it interactive
Avoid monologues (and hunched-over-laptop multitasking) by requiring people to come prepared for the discussion. Include any related materials in the invite and be clear that you expect them to review information prior to the meeting. When you stop doing all the talking, you’ll be surprised how others become more engaged.
4. Take notes and don’t forget to share them
Many jobs move at a breakneck speed. Amid the multitasking, it’s easy to forget specific actions and next steps that come out of a meeting. It’s an obvious and crucial tip: Designate someone in the meeting to capture key decisions and action items. Designate someone in the meeting to capture key decisions and action items.
Information-sharing doesn’t stop there, though. Notes can be quickly forgotten or only shared with the meeting leader. Make sure to share with all attendees, so people are aligned on outcomes and next steps. Well-structured notes can also quickly update those who did not attend and serve as an outline for the next discussion.
5. Squash unrelated topics
A good meeting should foster collaborative conversation. But, as with any good conversation, it’s easy to get off track. Keep an eye out for time sucks.
A 2014 study by Robert Half Management Resources showed that people think 25% of the time they spend in meetings is useless. About one-third of the time, the survey adds, the agenda is thrown by the wayside.
If you find yourself falling down the rabbit hole of budget conversations during a staffing meeting, suggest to move digression to the end of the agenda or discuss it separately.
6. Start and end on time (or early)
Lead by example. If you consistently start late, people will know they don’t need to show up until a few minutes after the hour. Show up early and kick things off on time. Sticking to the time frame and managing the conversation around the agenda shows people you respect their time — and sets an example so they’ll respect yours. If you can end early, do it. Your employees will appreciate a few more minutes back in their day.
While these meeting tips may not seem like rocket science, it’s surprising how often we forget the basics and end up with meetings that don’t move us forward. Take a step back and evaluate how you run meetings and where you can improve. Chances are you can make precious face-time with your team count even more.
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