6 Productivity Tips to Keep Your Meetings on Track

6 Productivity Tips to Keep Your Meetings on Track

We’re spending more time in meetings. According to a report by Harvard Business Reivew, today’s executives devote an average of 23 hours a week to them, while in the ’60s, meetings took up less than 10 hours for the average executive.

But the fact that we’re spending more time on meetings doesn’t mean we’re getting more done in them. It’s a common trope among office workers that meetings are a waste of time. In one survey, 71 percent of senior managers described them as unproductive and inefficient.

Meetings can be useful, but only if they stay on track. Keeping them productive is a challenge that requires discipline. In this article, we will dive into 6 productivity tips to keep your meetings on track. 

The more critical a meeting is, the more likely it is to stay on track. That’s because these meetings have a specific goal attendees need to accomplish.

Unnecessary meetings tend to be unfocused because they lack a specific goal. Avoid scheduling meetings for the sake of meeting up or “just in case.” If you can’t define a reason to have a meeting, skip it.

This rule also applies to the length of meetings. Favor shorter sessions over longer ones because tasks tend to expand to fill the time allotted to them — a phenomenon called Parkinson’s Law.

If you want to keep your meeting on track, invite the right people. Make sure everyone who needs to make the required decisions is there, but also be careful not to over-invite, which can slow meetings down. You need to have the right mix of people, too. Some sessions, for example, might not benefit from a blend of entry-level and senior employees.

Whoever is leading the meeting might need to take steps to encourage everyone to contribute so attendees can both provide and get value out of the meeting. For example, “Wins” meetings give team members a platform to share small milestones they’ve achieved that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. These kinds of meeting help everyone get on the same page while increasing team morale.

The time you spend in preparation for your meeting is just as essential as how you manage the meeting itself. Create an agenda for your meeting and share it with every participant. Start working on the plan and send it to people early, so they can prepare as well.

Before you go into the meeting, you should know what your goals are, what format your meeting will take, who will participate and the type of discussion you’ll have. Some meetings include a presentation, followed by time for questions, while others require more participation.

Meeting planning tools such as Huddles can help you prepare as well. You can use Huddles to create meeting agendas and presentations, take minutes, assign tasks and more.

When you share the job of keeping the meeting on track, it’s harder to miss it when things start going off the rails.

Try giving employees a constructive way to point out when someone gets off-topic, repeats something that’s already come up or does something else that could cause people to lose focus.

Security management software provider Brivo, for example, gives each employee a “No Rehash” pingpong paddle they can raise if someone brings up a subject that has already been addressed.

People dread long meetings, and if there’s no end in sight, people may start zoning out or getting distracted.

Building break times into exceptionally long meetings and letting everyone know about them ahead of time can help prevent people from getting angst. If people know there’s a break ahead, they may be more likely to resist the urge to check their email.

Even just a few minutes of free time can help. This article from the Muse recommends scheduling breaks into any meetings that are more than an hour long.

The structure of the meeting is essential as well. Having a clear beginning, middle and end will help people stay focused because they’ll have a better idea of what they should be doing at any given time.

To nail the beginning of your meeting, avoid starting while people are distracted. Let them settle in. Then, make sure everyone is on the same page about the purpose of the meeting before you begin.

The meeting should also have distinct sections, and it should be clear when you’re transitioning to a new topic.

Finally, end the meeting with a summary of what you accomplished and assign tasks as needed. After the meeting, send an email to recap this information.

Conclusion

Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time. For better meetings, make staying on task a top priority. If you plan appropriately, get everyone on the same page and follow the other tips in this article, you’ll be well on your way to wasting less time and getting more done.

FAQs

  1. How to keep meetings on track?
    To keep meetings focused, set a clear agenda beforehand, assign time limits to each agenda item, designate a facilitator to guide the discussion, and encourage active participation while gently steering off-topic conversations back on track.
  2. What should I do if a meeting goes off track?
    If a meeting veers off course, politely acknowledge the tangent, refocus the discussion on the agenda item at hand, and consider tabling unrelated topics for a separate discussion to ensure that the meeting stays productive and on schedule.
  3. How can I ensure all team members actively participate in meetings?
    Encourage participation by creating a safe and inclusive environment where every team member feels valued and heard. Consider implementing techniques like round-robin sharing, asking for input from quieter members, and setting ground rules that promote equal participation.
  4. What are some strategies to improve meeting efficiency?
    To enhance meeting efficiency, limit the number of attendees to those essential to the discussion, send out pre-read materials in advance, stick to the agenda, avoid multitasking, and conclude with clear action items and next steps to ensure follow-through and accountability.
  5. How can I gather feedback to continuously improve meeting effectiveness?
    Gather feedback from participants through post-meeting surveys or open discussions to identify areas for improvement. Analyze feedback to make adjustments in meeting structure, format, or facilitation techniques to enhance future meetings and overall team productivity.

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