8 Hacks to Make Your Meetings More Rewarding

How much time and money are you wasting in meetings? More than you think. 

Magician Hands With Hat And WandBut adding structure and predictability to your meetings will save you time and boost productivity.

Try these easy hacks and your meetings will swing from dysfunctional to gratifying.

There’s an app for that. Schedule, create agendas, take notes and follow up with a low-cost meeting app such as Minute, DoCisco Spark or Meetin.gs

To Meet or Not to Meet? Every meeting needs a clear purpose. What are the outcomes? What decisions must be made? Who needs to participate? What information do people need before the meeting? Don’t call a meeting unless you can easily answer these questions.

Send an agenda prior to the meeting. Don’t shroud your meeting in mystery. No one should have to guess what will be discussed. In the invitation, include topics, questions, or decisions that will be covered. One executive told me if a meeting invitation doesn’t state a clear purpose and agenda topics, she automatically declines.

Avoid arbitrary time blocks. Who says you have to schedule meetings for 60 or 30 minutes? Experiment with 50 minute, or 25 minute meetings. With a little practice, discipline and consistency, you’ll realize it’s not  hard to cover more in less time. Plus, you’ll have a cushion if you often run or dial into back-to-back meetings.

Engage immediately. Don’t assume participants come to a meeting with the same expectations. At the start of every meeting, level-set and gain agreement by restating the purpose of the meeting, confirming the end time, reviewing the agenda/discussion topics and asking for additions/clarification and proposing ground rules (e.g. phones and laptops off, offer solutions not just problems). 

Use clocks and timers to stay on track. Refer to the time when you need to move on.

“It’s 10:00 and I want to be respectful of your time. Let’s start.”

“I’m setting the timer for 20 seconds. When it beeps, your time is up and the next person provides input.”

“We have 5 minutes left so let’s assign actions and responsibilities.”

Get out. Take a break from windowless, sterile conference rooms. Re-energize by conducting meetings outside in a courtyard. If you don’t need to reference technology and it’s only a few people, try a walking meeting. Even a corner of the cafeteria during off hours can be a welcome change. 

Step up. Even if you’re not the leader, every participant has the responsibility to step in and save a flailing meeting. When things spin out of control or fall flat, say what you see and offer suggestions.

“We’ve spent a long time on this issue and we aren’t going to solve it today. I suggest we move on and come back to this when we have answers to the two outstanding questions.”

“We’ve only heard from one or two people. I’d like to hear from Carlos and Sunny.”

“I hear a lot of frustration about the direction we’re headed. What aspects of the plan are doable?”

What meeting hacks would you add?

Marta Steele is a partner @People_Results and has been teaching and practicing meeting facilitation skills for over 2 decades. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.