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Top tips for running more productive meetings

Operating a thriving business means finding ways to increase efficiency. Yet countless hours are wasted on meetings that lack direction, waste valuable time and pull people away from important tasks. 

Here are eight simple tips that can help make your meetings more efficient, cost-effective, and even improve workflow.

1. Set a clear objective

All meetings should have a clear goal in mind. If everyone is aware of what the meeting needs to accomplish, you are much more likely to achieve it. When you have that goal in front of you, it’s much easier to visualize and reach it. Make sure your goal is easy to understand and explain. One study showed that having a simple and concise outline of a meeting’s objectives can shave up to 17 minutes off the length of a meeting.

2. Book the meeting

Sending all attendees a calendar invite will make sure everyone has the meeting on their radar and is properly reminded. You can easily set up a google invite by going to your Google calendar, adding the emails of the people you want invited, picking an available room and filling out any other appropriate information about the meeting. 

3. Share a meeting agenda

Speaking of appropriate information for a meeting; setting an agenda in advance helps to keep everyone on track during the meeting. If it appears that the discussion is steering away from the current topic, anyone can refer to the agenda and remind attendees of the meeting’s objectives. Distribute your agenda several days ahead of the meeting with accompanying supporting documents if available. That way you can help everyone be prepared.

4. Make sure the right people attend

Inviting members of staff to meetings can be costly if they have no stake in the outcome. In the US alone, the annual cost of time wasted in work meetings is approximately $37 billion. You should think about only including staff who are directly responsible for implementing the outcomes of your discussion. Make sure to invite key members only. Those members can then pass on any important information. 

5. Be inclusive

When more than one or two people are invited to a meeting, make sure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute. A couple of people may dominate the discussion. However, a meeting is most productive when everyone is involved. Shy people and introverts are often highly creative thinkers. Encourage them to contribute to the discussion

6. Start on time

Meetings should begin promptly…no excuses. Waiting for latecomers will immediately make those people who arrive on time begin to feel restless and their time under-valued. Try to avoid Monday morning meetings and arrange meetings for mid-afternoons on Tuesdays instead. This will give your staff time to get back into gear after the weekend and to prepare for your meeting

7. Keep the meeting short and end on time

Perhaps you are in the habit of scheduling meeting lengths of 60 minutes or an hour and a half. Ideally, meeting lengths should be somewhere between 20 to 40 minutes. Any longer and people’s attention can lessen and productivity plummets. Make it clear that the meeting will end on time.  For those of you who use google calendar to schedule your meetings, you can modify the default 1 hr. setting to 30 or 45 or use the “Speedy meetings” feature for increments of 15, 20, 25, etc. Open your calendar and click on “setting” (top right-hand side corner), scroll down to “Event settings” and click on “Speedy meetings” to adjust to your preference.

Google Calendar

8. Ban mobile devices

Mobile devices can be an annoying distraction in meetings. Some people just can’t help but check their mobile phones for incoming calls and messages even when they are set to silent. Politely ask all attendees to turn their mobile phones off, or better still, to leave them at their desks.

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