Amidst endless Zoom calls, it’s easy to find your mind wandering to thoughts of how to have better meetings. A study by the University of North Carolina discovered that 71% of managers find meetings to be a waste of time. 65% believe meetings prevent them from finishing their work, and 61% said meetings keep them from deep thinking.
And yet, meetings are an unavoidable part of the working world.
They’re seen as an important element of business, but these stats show that they may not be as necessary as some of us might think. There may just be less stressful or less mentally draining ways of updating people. Slack, Teams, Workrowd, emails, or even a quick recording, maybe?
Let’s take a look at some simple tips for how to have better meetings, including ways to make them both shorter and fewer.
Don’t have meetings for the sake of having meetings
Some people really love meetings. Instead of sending a quick email or message, they’ll schedule a meeting to share something that only takes one sentence to explain.
This isn’t an effective use of anyone’s time. It disrupts the attendees’ days, leaving them with less time for their actual jobs.
It can also be a source of anxiety for employees if they don’t know why you want to talk. They can feel stressed even if they have nothing to worry about.
Face-to-face meetings can help you to read other attendees, and also help teams to bond, but they’re not always necessary. Especially if you’re sharing news rather than having a discussion.
If it’s something that doesn’t require a discussion, and it’s quicker to write an email or record a video, do that instead. Because you want to…
Respect other people’s time
Time and energy are finite resources. The longer a meeting goes on for, the more time and energy it drains.
For some people, it can take even more time and energy. They may need a break to recover before returning to their actual job.
Let’s not forget that meetings aren’t technically in most people’s job descriptions. They’re just an accepted part of the working day.
If it’s a spontaneous meeting, sprung on someone when they were in the middle of something, it can be even worse. They may struggle to get back into what they were doing even if they have a deadline looming.
If it isn’t important to everyone, does it need to be discussed now? Does everyone you’ve invited really need to attend?
It’s all too common for a meeting organizer to invite an employee simply because their boss wanted them there. But then that same boss asks the employee not to speak during the meeting. So, what’s the point in them attending?
Things like business updates can easily be shared with the rest of the company via email.
The sender can then answer any questions over email as well, or during a much shorter call. This allows employees to digest the information in their own time, instead of when their employer tells them they should.
It also ensures that nobody’s day is broken up by unnecessary meetings.
Being transparent doesn’t mean having to invite everyone to everything. You can still share information without eating into employees’ days. Being selective about when you actually need to meet is a key element of how to have better meetings.
Have a time and space for small talk
Sometimes, the start of a meeting—or even halfway through, when people start to lag—can get filled with discussions about the latest Netflix show or a book someone’s read.
While this is a great way for teams to connect, it’s not a great use of people’s time.
It can drag out the meeting, reducing how much time and energy attendees have left for the rest of their days.
When employees have somewhere to actually chat about these things—like a dedicated krowd in Workrowd, or a regular book club—they’re less likely to have conversations about this stuff during a meeting. The meeting is then more efficient, and teams still get to discuss the latest Netflix true crime documentary.
Stick to the agenda
It’s common for people to discuss an idea in a meeting, then for that idea to trigger another, completely separate idea. Which turns the whole session into a different discussion. Then another idea comes up. And another discussion takes shape. This drags out the meeting, completely changing its course and purpose.
If someone has a great idea that doesn’t directly affect the direction you’re going in, jot it down and save it for another meeting/conversation.
Just because it’s a great idea, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be discussed in person. Some ideas are just as great when talked about via email or group chat.
And the more focused your meeting is, the more efficient it will be, too.
Send the agenda in advance
When people don’t know what’s going to be talked about in a meeting, it can be harder for them to know what to say when questions are raised or when their opinion is asked for. Not everyone thinks well on their feet.
Sending out the meeting’s agenda in advance gives those who prefer to ruminate on ideas before sharing them the opportunity to think about things. You may then find you get more employees speaking up in meetings and better ideas as a result.
Notice when someone is taking over
There’s always someone who talks more than others during a meeting. It’s important that a different person is in control of the discussion, and can rein in anyone who’s doing this.
Having one person not just in charge of the agenda, but of who speaks and when, will help quieter attendees feel more comfortable speaking because everyone will get equal time and space to share their thoughts.
Sometimes the person speaking too much doesn’t have anything useful to share, is repeating themselves, taking credit for others’ ideas, or changing the direction of the meeting. This drags out the meeting and can make everyone else in attendance disengage out of frustration.
Just because someone doesn’t speak without encouragement, that doesn’t mean they don’t have ideas worth sharing. It may just mean that they’re uncomfortable speaking over the loudest person in the room.
Work toward a takeaway, even if it isn’t a resolution
Another key recommendation for how to have better meetings is to ensure that every meeting has a purpose. What problem are you trying to solve?
Even if you can’t work toward a solution, if you’ve narrowed things down, that’s a win.
Forcing everyone to keep going when they’re falling asleep over their coffee will drag out your meeting and make it harder to decide on anything. Nobody has ever made a great decision when they’re mentally exhausted.
Instead, it may be more effective to have several shorter meetings on the same topic, narrowing down ideas and discussion points each time.
Having a short, set time to talk about something can lead to more creativity and room for discussion. The shorter time frame means there’s less time to waste on small talk or segues, and the set time gives employees the chance to plan and consider ideas before entering the room.
It also avoids any rushed decisions that come from the need to solve everything in one meeting.
If you’re looking for an easier way to keep employees connected, and to cut down on unnecessary meetings, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our one-stop platform streamlines the process of sharing information with employees, and ensures they have open lines of communication with peers for both work- and non-work-related discussions.