Here’s how to actually put on a worthwhile meeting
A recent study by Zippa found that an estimated $37 billion is lost per year to unproductive meetings.
Work meetings can be necessary, but also dull, and even worse, irrelevant. We have all seen a poorly planned meeting consume valuable company time, and keep you away from what’s important.
Zippa’s study also found that 65% of employees agree that meetings prevent them from completing their own work.
So what’s with all the meetings? And how do you prevent you and your team from wasting time in these gatherings that “could have just been an email”?
Don’t get me wrong, when meetings are properly planned, they can incite a productive, enthusiastic team. Meetings give opportunities for workplace discussions, to solve problems, develop ideas or provide direction.
But to make meetings count, you need to have a proper strategic approach. By being mindful of when and how you put on meetings, you will avoid the astronomical amount of time wasted as discussed in these statistics.
Below are our top tips for putting on a truly worthwhile meeting and avoiding wasting time for you and your team.
While it may be your initial instinct, sometimes a formal meeting simply isn’t necessary. Think about the reasons you have meetings and the ones that are consistently scheduled (if any). Are these actually helpful and result in moving organizational goals forward? Or are these meetings simply taking place by default. Perhaps those morning staff meetings could be reduced to a few times a week instead of every day, or maybe they could take place over morning coffee, and be more informal.
To determine if a meeting is necessary, here are some important questions to consider.
- What is the clear goal, or deliverables to this meeting?
- Does this topic require outside input for development?
- Does this topic entail a face-to-face conversation, and if so, who should be included in this conversation?
- Will this meeting make valuable use of time for the employees?
By asking these questions, you demonstrate respect towards your team and their time. And if you answer these questions and are still concluding that a meeting must take place, then you can go forward confidently knowing that you won’t be wasting anyone’s time by putting it on.
Using the PAT approach to prepare for and schedule a meeting is a great tool for the most effective meeting management. All meetings should have a purpose, agenda, and time frame.
- Purpose: What is the purpose of the meeting? This should be stated in one short sentence. Example: “This meeting is to review the new invoice signing policy.” This helps people evaluate if they need to be there. It will also help you build the agenda and determine if the meeting was successful.
- Agenda: This is the backbone of the meeting. It should be created well in advance of the meeting, sent to all participants and observers, and used during the meeting to keep things on track.
- Time frame: How long will the meeting be? Typically, meetings should not exceed one hour. If the meeting needs to be longer, make sure you include breaks, or divide it into two or more sessions.
Before the meeting, make a list of what needs to be discussed, how long you believe it will take, and the person who will be taking the lead on presenting the item. Here is an example.
Once the agenda is complete, send it to all participants and observers, preferably with the meeting request, and preferably two to three days before the meeting. Make sure you ask for everyone’s approval, including additions or deletions. If you do make changes, send out a single updated copy 24 hours before the meeting.
Before the meeting, post the agenda on a flip chart, whiteboard, or PowerPoint slide. Spend the first five minutes of the meeting going over the agenda and getting approval. During the meeting, take minutes with the agenda as a framework.
Although this informal structure will be sufficient for most meetings, more formal meetings may require more formal minutes.
Your job as chairperson is to keep the meeting running according to the agenda. If an item runs past its scheduled time, ask the group if they think more time is needed to discuss the item. If so, how do they want to handle it? They can reduce the time for other items, remove other items altogether, schedule an offline follow-up session, or schedule another meeting. No matter what the group agrees to, make sure that they stick to their decision.
At the end of the meeting, get an agreement that all items on the agenda were sufficiently covered. This will identify any gaps that may require follow-up and it will give people a positive sense of accomplishment about the meeting.
To ensure a successful close to your meeting, it is best to touch base and track progress. After the meeting, send out a summary of the meeting to everyone that includes action items (similar to the minutes shown above). Action items should be clearly indicated, with start and end dates, and progress dates if applicable. If follow-up meetings were scheduled, these should also be communicated.
It is beneficial to seek feedback after a meeting. Ask your participants whether they had found the meeting valuable, or what could be improved. Feedback is useful to prepare for future meetings.
By taking the above steps before, during, and after your meetings, you will actually save time in the long run for you and your team. Making the most of meetings ensures everyone comes out of them knowing what needs to get done without feeling overwhelmed because of the time wasted to determine action items.
If you’re looking to help your trainees learn to save time in a variety of things in the workplace, you need to check out our Time Management Workshop. It covers more on worthwhile meetings and saving time on emails, task management, and more.
If you want to learn more about putting on optimized meetings, make sure to check out our Meeting Management Workshop.
Posted by Katelyn Roy on