Making meetings more productive

| September 29, 2015

Making meetings more productive

This third piece in our series of Small Business success series from GIO covers how we can make meetings more productive. A lot of us hate meetings. It is an unfortunate reality but it can also be quite understandable. Whether it’s a regular weekly appointment or an urgent schedule change that doesn’t concern you, there are plenty of meetings that produce little in the way of productive content.

If you leave a meeting with no clear idea of what’s required of you or what has been achieved, the odds are your meeting was unproductive and a waste of time. Any business should seek to prevent this from happening, but this is particularly important in smaller businesses.

Do we really need this meeting?

  • The first question anyone should ask when arranging a meeting is simple; “Do we really need this meeting?” If the answer is no, then don’t have one.
  • If you have a specific goal in mind that could benefit from collaboration, then a meeting is useful. But if you’ve already decided on a course of action then chances are, the meeting will waste your time.
  • Have a clear goal in mind. Is the meeting for sharing information, generating ideas or making decisions?
  • Ensure that everybody who attends is relevant to the process.

What’s the agenda?

Devise a clear agenda that will lead you to your goal. Mark each agenda item with clarification of what will be discussed.  For example, “Online marketing strategy – do we need to use social media?” This enables everybody to prepare for the meeting and helps to prevent off-topic discussions. You can assign specific topics so that attendees can prepare beforehand.

Make every minute count

  • Every minute you spend in a meeting can be multiplied by the amount of people present. Ten minutes in a ten-person meeting waiting for a late arrival actually wastes over an hour and a half of productive time.
  • Define clear start and end points for your meeting and stick to them.
  • Consider “standing meetings” to prevent people waffling – when you’re on your feet, you deal with things more quickly.
  • Stick to the essentials and “park” everything you don’t need to deal with on a whiteboard or notes for future discussion. You will stay on topic but let everyone know that their concerns will still be addressed.
  • It is essential to review what you’ve covered in the meeting and ensure everybody has actionable steps to follow. Ask attendees what actions they’ll be taking as a result of the meeting and ensure their course of action is clear. This adds accountability and clarity. Write a list of action points and email them to further cement this.

Use software to reduce headaches

Use online software to save yourself time in scheduling. Instead of sending emails, using a website like When is Good, Doodle and YArooms enables you to list your availability and have other attendees note the times they’re available. Compile this data and select the most suitable time. Interestingly, Tuesday at 3pm is the most agreeable time according to When is Good’s research (reported 2009).

Stay focused and in control

If you consider the above points carefully and schedule meetings only when you need them, your employees won’t hate them anymore. You won’t waste time having unnecessary discussions or drag people along who have nothing to contribute to proceedings. Handled correctly, meetings are an efficient way to solve problems, include key stakeholders and give them actionable steps when they return to their desks.