How to Conduct Productive Meetings

productive meeting

We’ve all left meetings wondering what the point of it was. Measuring the amount of work we could have accomplished while sitting through a meeting, we might have even gone out of our way trying to avoid them altogether.

Professionals lose 31 hours of work a month in pointless meetings that drag on and on. It’s so bad that 73% of employees admit that they sit through meetings doing other work.

This decrease in employee productivity can leave employees feeling unsatisfied and may eventually lead to an increased employee turnover.

Moreover, pointless meetings that drag on also cost companies a lot of money. For instance, businesses in the United States spend $37 billion in salaries for unproductive meetings alone. Just think about how much that costs a company’s bottom line.

Yes, meetings can be such a waste of time. 47% of employees can attest to that. But when done right, meetings can also be an important part of work. Here are some ways to conduct a productive meeting in the workplace.

Before the Meeting

First, ask yourself whether it’s truly necessary to have the meeting. One way to do this is by looking at the meeting’s objectives and comparing them with the company’s goals. Do they align? If they don’t, then not having that meeting won’t be such a huge loss.

Provide an Objective

Now, if the objectives of the meeting do align with the company’s goals, it’s important to set an objective. Expected attendees should receive in advance an outline that states the clear objectives of the meeting. A clear objective should answer the following questions:

  • What do we need to accomplish?
  • What are our desired outcomes?
  • Why do we want to accomplish these?
  • When should we accomplish this?
  • How can we measure success?

Naturally, employees would wonder why they are invited. So, it would also be helpful if they know what the facilitator expects them to contribute.

Set an Agenda

Surprisingly, 63% of meetings are scheduled without a clear agenda. However, an agenda is what gives structure to a meeting. It keeps the discussion from drifting in and out of topic.

A clear agenda should be purposeful. For example, instead of “Logistics,” write “Review logistics for the benefit campaign.” The latter is more effective as it can generate plenty of ideas from the get-go. Limit the agenda to less than five topics.

Invite Only the Right People

The rule is to invite only those involved in the project. A maximum of 10 people in attendance should already complete the lineup. The fewer the people, the more productive the meeting would be.

Another way to ensure that you have the right number of people is by following Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ two-pizza rule. That is, two pizzas should be able to feed the entire group. Otherwise, someone needs to go.

Limiting your invites to a certain number will give you the assurance that you’re meeting only with those who could directly contribute to the success of the project.

With that said, it’s just proper to allow employees to decline an invitation. Some employees know when their input is important to a meeting, or when they need to attend to bigger things instead.

During the Meeting

By the time the meeting begins, everybody should already have a copy of the agenda. Designate a time for the meeting and set the call time. Provide a buffer for the time it takes for an employee to shift from work mode, enter the meeting room, and set their coffee cups on the table.

Set the Most Productive Time

According to a study, the most productive time to conduct a meeting is on Tuesdays at 2:30pm.

Meeting on a Tuesday instead of a Monday will work to your advantage because employees are no longer on weekend mode. And at 2:30 in the afternoon, they’re neither sleepy nor are they rushing to head home. In fact, their pre-lunch energy level has just been restored.

If you can’t schedule your meeting for this particular time, have it on a Wednesday or Thursday mid-afternoon. The worst time for a meeting, though, according to studies, would be on Monday morning.

Change Your Environment

When we think about meetings, we always imagine them taking place in a board room with a bunch of suits sitting at a conference table. But as of late, health administrators are proposing walking meetings as a way to reduce office stress. After all, sitting at a desk for too long renders both body and mind stagnant.

Aside from reducing stress, changing the environment also benefits everyone’s health. For one, it reduces back and neck pain, and even prevents obesity. Walking for 30 minutes also helps with anxiety and depression, especially when we see the environment around us.

Aside from recharging the synapses in the brain, walking in nature also helps employees reconnect with colleagues. One successful company that has made the most out of walking meetings is Apple.

Time Your Meeting

Once a meeting has been set, everyone should follow the time. That means no updates for late arrivals.

Former Microsoft program manager Nicole Steinbok recommends a meeting to last only 22 minutes or less. When specific goals and agenda have been set beforehand, a company doesn’t need an hour to sort things out.

Keeping things on time also means no distractions. No phones, no laptops—even PowerPoint presentations should go. These distractions make it difficult for employees to follow discussions and generate ideas, especially when the speaker reads the presentation verbatim.

Stay on Schedule

It’s the facilitator’s job to keep the meeting on point. They must redirect the conversation to the agenda as soon as it strays off topic. The person who takes the minutes of the meeting could also help with this task. Staying on schedule would make it easier for them to create the report anyway.

If possible, the agenda that would elicit the least discussion should start first. Reserve off-topic comments or follow-ups for the next meeting. As such, reserve status updates for emails, while reading documents as a group should never happen in a meeting.

After the Meeting

When recapping a meeting, there’s always that person who objects to a decision that the team has already made. So, it’s important for the facilitator to summarize the points of discussion and solutions at the end of every meeting. This at least confirms that everyone’s on the same page.

Confirm Next Steps

The facilitator should also recap the action plan and point person for each task. There should already be a clear roadmap or time frame with which employees can work. The efficient way to end is to encourage employees to start performing their tasks as soon as they leave the meeting.

Gather Questions

The meeting’s conclusion is also a great way to raise or clarify further questions. Ask the participants to take a few minutes to reflect on their next tasks. Ask about their thoughts on urgent concerns. Write down their suggestions to be discussed next meeting.

End with Action

A discussion should further conclude with a course of action. Aside from filling everyone in on their tasks, it’s also an opportunity to redirect their focus on the bigger picture.

Again, the connection between the meeting and the company’s goal should be clear. This way, everybody can leave the discussion with their sights set forward.

Making Meetings Productive

With today’s fast-paced office culture, workers simply don’t have time for unproductive meetings. Planning meetings in advance with a clear objective and definitive agenda would save plenty of time and promote employee morale. More than that, productive meetings would also help the company recall its goals, redirect its focus on actionable challenges, and stay on top of things.