According to a study in MIT Sloan Management Review, the executive-level staff is currently spending almost 23 hours a week in meetings, more than double what they would have spent in the 1960s.
Clearly some of these meetings must be important, but do they have to take up quite so much time that could be spent so much more productively?
Another survey found that 71% of senior managers found meetings to be unproductive and inefficient, so there’s certainly a willingness amongst staff even at the highest levels to improve the way they work.
The Business Backer has tried to help out, coming up with a visual guide to meetings that are focused and productive, based on these 9 tips.
1) Review the agenda
Instead of getting straight into the meeting, take some time at the start to review what has been planned, to make sure anything that needs to be changed or added can be done at this stage rather than trying to shoehorn it in later. If this is the case, any non-essential items can be identified and removed or postponed, avoiding overrunning the meeting or missing out on something important.
2) Make the desired outcomes clear
We’ve all sat in meetings where we are unclear what the point of it is, more often than care to admit. To avoid this, each item on the meeting agenda should have a ‘purpose’ section, showing what it is meant to achieve.
3) Set time limits
The main reason so many meetings run on later than they should is that there is no control placed on how long each item should take. This makes it very hard for whoever is in charge of the meeting to keep the timing under control, so each item should have a time allocated to it in the agenda.
4) Be specific
A meeting agenda is no place for vague language, so make sure that any instructions and processes are laid out in the clearest possible terms, so there can be no doubt what is required.
5) Allocate responsibility
Each item on the agenda requires someone to given responsibility for it, so that they can take ownership and prepare for it in advance instead of being expected to make it up on the spot or have to delay the item until a future meeting.
The order of the meeting should be done, where possible, in order of priority, so the most important items come first and the least important are towards the end. This means that if some items do take longer than expected, the meeting doesn’t end before a critical issue has been discussed.
7) Ask questions
Drive the focus of each item on your agenda by formulating it as a question. This will ensure that the item is specifically about solving a particular problem, and cannot be diverted onto another topic altogether during a wide-ranging discussion.
8) Make it easy to scan
When you send out your agenda beforehand, a real priority has to be getting people to actually read it. The chances are that your email will arrive while they’re busy or distracted, so the onus is on you to make sure it’s easy to scan and short enough that people won’t be put off from reading.
9) End with an evaluation
You started the meeting by looking at what would be covered and you set out the clear outcomes, so it makes sense to conclude proceedings with a quick evaluation of how the meeting went and what could be improved next time.
If you start applying these tips to your meetings, you will see them becoming much more focused and productive, cutting out the vague and aimless discussions, saving time and getting more accomplished. You can see them all in this infographic from The Business Backer.