The Simple Secrets to Productive Meetings

If you’re like me, meetings take up an extraordinary amount of the work day.

Some meetings are smooth and fruitful; others are a painful waste of time.

But it takes very little effort to make meetings exponentially better.

  • Keep it Short. Respecting people’s time is one of the most considerate things you can do. Lately I’ve been experimenting with 15 and 30 minute meetings. It does require a little more planning and tighter facilitation on the part of the leader, but I’ve found my team accomplishes more, in less time. We stay laser focused and only discuss what’s necessary.
  • Proper Set up. Begin every meeting with a clear set up and purpose statement. Why are you bringing people together? To update? To decide? To get approval? One of my colleagues suggests including the sentence, “The purpose of this meeting is to …” with every calendar invitation, and restating it at the beginning of every meeting. This is a simple way to gain buy-in and minimize confusion.
  • Stand, don’t sit. Scientific research supports the hypotheses that standing during meetings makes them shorter and results in more collaboration. It may look and feel odd at first but it’s a great way to stay focused. Who wants to stand for an hour? One of my clients enthusiastically told me, “We started standing during our Friday huddles and cut our meeting time in half. We’ve become very efficient.”
  • Stay on the same page with visuals. To literally keep people on the sameStopwatch page, come prepared with a visual. Otherwise, the meeting can turn into a lot of blabbing, grounded in nothingness. Don’t underestimate the value of a simple one page status, agenda, options or recommendation. It’s much easier for people to react and participate and stay on track if everyone is looking at the same thing. Bring handouts or hook up your computer to an LCD projector (you can buy a mini for less than $100) and display your document on the wall.
  • Chocolate. When in doubt, bring chocolate. I’ve started carrying a bag of Hershey miniatures or M&Ms to the meetings I lead. The mood in the room changes dramatically and everyone seems a little more relaxed. Maybe it’s the sugar high, but it works.

What are your secrets to productive meetings?

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.