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June 26, 2019

How to Hold Productive Meetings

Meetings. They can be the biggest time-suckers next to Facebook. And they’re usually less enjoyable.
Studies estimate that we hold 11 million formal business meetings in the United States every day. That equates to $37 billion in lost revenue from time wasted in meetings.
Shocked? You’re not even close yet:
  • Employees spend 37 percent of their time in meetings.
  • Managers attend more than 60 meetings per month.
  • Almost 40 percent of those surveyed have fallen asleep during a meeting.
  • Up to half of a meeting’s time is wasted.
Wow. It makes you never want to go to another meeting.
But in today’s culture, meetings are almost a necessity – at least project managers think so. 😉 If they are a necessity, and people find that they need to get together to talk about a certain subject, how do you make the best use of your time?
Luckily, there are some things you can do to make a good, productive meeting possible.

Steps to a productive meeting

  • Make an agenda. Don’t know why you’re meeting? Then why are you meeting? Each meeting should have a set, published agenda so everyone attending knows what to expect. Be specific on what needs to be discussed, what the expected outcomes are (a decision? Communication?). If you don’t have a clear idea about what the meeting is for, then don’t hold it.
  • Don’t invite people who don’t need to be there. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a meeting in which you aren’t needed. Carefully choose those people who need to be involved; don’t just invite people to keep them in the loop or to make them feel important. They’ll thank you for not including you in a meeting that doesn’t pertain to them.
  • Stick to the agenda. The agenda is not only there to inform participants, but to guide you through the meeting. Other topics that come up need to be tabled for another time (another meeting?!).
  • Put a time limit on the meeting. Stick to it. Three-hour meetings drain employees and make them unproductive for the rest of the day. Also, setting a strict time limit forces you to get through the agenda and to make necessary decisions.
  • Have action items. Every meeting should have some idea of what needs to be done next, and hopefully, each participant (who absolutely needs to be there, right?) should know what the next steps are for them and for the team.

How to decline a meeting (or make it better if you have to go)

What if you’re on the receiving end of a meeting request? Conduct the same steps.
  • Ask if there’s an agenda, and whether you can see it. If there isn’t, ask what the meeting is for and whether the organizer can create an agenda. If they can’t, and you can bow out gracefully, do so.
  • If you don’t need to be there – i.e., it doesn’t involve you, and it’s not mandatory – politely refuse, saying something like, “Hey, it looks like you all can handle this without me, and I’ve got a deadline approaching on a project.” The book Essentialism by Greg McKeown gives this advice: If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.
  • If you do go to the meeting, make sure the facilitator/leader sticks to the meeting’s agenda. Remind them of the time remaining.
  • Ask what you can do next.
There you have it – the key to productive meetings. Try introducing these steps among your peers at work, and maybe – just maybe – the next meeting won’t be so unproductive.

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