Make Your Meetings Better

November 20th, 2015

Your meetings may be efficient, short, and productive, but there’s a strong chance you could be getting more out each session than you already do. And there are plenty of reasons to make this happen: meetings consume a huge portion of the working day for an average employee, and every minute NOT spent in a meeting can be spent on other tasks that require focused individual attention. These extra minutes add up. Just a simple tweak to your meeting structure can help you—and your employees—accomplish more over the long term. Here are a few ways to streamline the process.

Cancel when you can.

If there’s any way to avoid scheduling a meeting or any alternative methods that can be used to accomplish the same goals, consider these alternatives. Meetings should be a last resort. As you create a list of invitees, keep the list short. Before you add a name, consider this person’s hourly salary and imagine how this time and money might be better spent.

Write down goals.

The person who decides to schedule a given meeting should document the goals of the session before distributing invitations. He or she should also type up an agenda so the session stays on track. Distributing the agenda before the meeting can help each participant know what to expect, how they can contribute, and when the session is expected to end.

Encourage contributions, but stay focused.

A totalitarian approach to meeting sessions can keep your meetings short, since everyone at the table will be afraid to speak up and will just scribble notes until it’s time to leave. On the other end of the spectrum, a relaxed open forum may encourage contributions that haven’t been fully thought out, and may turn your meeting into a rambling free-for-all. Find a sweet spot in between; encourage participants to speak up, but keep the atmosphere formal, focused, and respectful.

Planning or status?

Don’t confuse a forward-thinking planning session with a status update. If the goal is to inform, check in, and report on progress, keep the conversation centered on the present. If the goal is to look ahead and lay the ground work for future action, stay focused on the road. Make sure each participant clearly understands his or her next steps and action items before leaving the room.

Provide background before the meeting begins.

Don’t spend the first half of a long session providing updates and backstory that most of the participants already know. Distribute this information beforehand, or encourage participants to inform and educate themselves before showing up. Again, weigh the value of this time against the hourly salaries and alternative tasks of each participant.

For more on how to keep your meetings focused and purposeful, contact the staffing and business management team at PSU.

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