Business meetings and Rodney Dangerfield have a lot in common. Okay, probably only one thing in common. They get no respect. Meetings are so often the butt of jokes and gripes, not just in the office, but throughout popular culture. (Dilbert, anyone?) Yet, for all their perceived downsides, meetings do have an important purpose. Instead of viewing meetings as a necessary evil, managers need to improve their meeting facilitation skills to get the most out of every departmental collaboration.
Why meetings exist
Take a little stroll through Google’s search engine, and it’s easy to discover why so many workers dread meetings. According to Goaskcody.com, managers sacrifice up to 12 hours every week to the hungry meeting gods and the average office worker attends 62 meetings a month. In an article for the Harvard Business Review called “Your Scarcest Resource,” a team of researchers summed up the cultural resentment toward meetings succinctly,
“Time devoted to internal meetings detracts from time spent with customers. Organizations become bloated, bureaucratic, and slow, and their financial performance suffers. Employees spend an ever-increasing number of hours away from their families and friends, with little to show for it.”
If meetings are so terrible, why do managers have so many?
The answer is that meetings, when done right, can provide incredible value to a business. Meetings allow teams to brainstorm, share information, collaborate, and revise goals. Teams are crucial to today’s information economy and meetings are the instrument that brings teams together.
The solution to our collective meeting miasma, then isn’t to eradicate meetings for all of time and never speak their name again. Rather, it’s to improve how meetings function so that they provide clear value for its participants and helps the company complete its goals. In other words, good meetings depend on good meeting facilitation. For an in-depth look at how to scale company culture, hold collaborative and productive meetings, and improve employee engagement, download our ebook.
Here are nine ways you can improve your next meeting:
1. Make an agenda
Creating an agenda may seem like obvious advice, but not everyone takes it. Before you call a meeting, figure out exactly what topics you want to address and what you want to achieve. Give everyone a copy of the agenda before the meeting or at the start so that you’re all on the same page. (More reading: How to create a meeting agenda that really works.)
2. Only invite necessary members
Many workers get dragged into meetings because it “might” be useful for them to observe, but it’s probably more useful for them to spend that time doing their jobs if they aren’t really needed. When scheduling your meeting, consider who absolutely must attend and only invite those individuals.
3. Start on time, end on time
Time is a finite resource, which makes it nearly invaluable. Every minute a worker sits in a meeting is a minute they can’t be working on their own projects. Start your meetings on time and keep an eye on the clock. Sometimes long meetings can’t be helped, but usually, a good facilitator can help the team wrap up on time or even a little early.
4. Keep it short
Your meeting should only take as long as absolutely necessary to achieve your outcome and not a minute more. You’d be amazed at what you can get done in 15 minutes or 30 minutes when everyone at the table is motivated and engaged. The job-hunting website, Monster, suggests that 45-minute meetings hit “the attention-span sweet spot.” (More reading: 3 ways to keep meetings short)
5. Get to the point
At the very start of the meeting, explain what you want to accomplish. Giving your team a clear goal will help them stay on task and will prevent the meeting from wandering afield. If you do feel that the conversation is drifting away, re-iterate the goal to snap everyone back to attention.
6. Tell your team only what they need to know
You don’t need to prove your expertise on the topic at hand if your team members only need a general overview. Too often, managers and speakers can go too far into the weeds, which is when meeting participants start checking email or texting the latest memes to each other. Cut out all the extra information that isn’t directly relevant to your meeting’s goal.
7. Keep the discussion focused
Discussion time during a meeting is crucial for strong collaboration, brainstorming, and team building, but it’s often the most likely point where the meeting can fall off the rails. As a facilitator, it’s your job to keep the discussion focused and relevant. If someone starts to deviate too far from the topic at hand, pull it back and remind everyone again about the meeting goal. (More reading: The seven imperatives to keeping meetings on track)
8. Give everyone space to contribute
Just like in high school, most meetings include a few dominant personalities who will be glad to run the show if given the chance. Make sure you ask for feedback from everyone so you can take the full temperature of the room. Your more introverted team members may have great contributions to make. Anonymous polls from Poll Everywhere can help you quickly and easily capture authentic feedback from your entire team.
9. Make it worthwhile
Every meeting needs to have a purpose and provide value to the attendees. By the time the meeting is over, you should have accomplished your goal or at least made progress on it. Be sure to articulate that accomplishment so that your team feels good about the time they just spent.
Are your meetings working?
How do your employees feel about the meetings at your company? What do they wish they could change to free up more time, make meetings more productive, or make them more valuable? Poll Everywhere can help you find the answer. Our software gives you the ability to create customized polls that your employees are able to answer anonymously, giving you accurate and honest feedback so you can improve your meeting facilitation skills and maybe even make meetings something your team looks forward to! Download our ebook to learn how to manage your remote team, hold efficient meetings, and improve employee engagement.