Meeting (4)

A survey from Citrix UK found that UK office workers were spending an average of 3.3 hours attending meetings each day, around half a day of their time. If all these meetings are unproductive, that’s a lot of wasted time which businesses are picking up the tab for.

Many employees admit to daydreaming in meetings or checking personal emails, social media or sending personal SMS messages. We can all related to spending time in pointless meetings that are unstructured, too long and unfocused but just how can organisations ensure that meetings are productive?

Firstly, should companies still be having meetings at all? Technology has changed the nature of meetings to a degree and more companies can use video conferencing and conference calls negating the need for travel.

However, the fact remains that meetings remain an integral part of corporate life. Meetings connect people and bring them together to share ideas. They are generally a good thing but they need to be managed well, with a clear and focused agenda. Having a time limit is crucial to help people stay focused, ideally 30 minutes, and definitely not more than 60 minutes. Any meeting over three hours long needs serious justification.

There are ways of keeping meetings short and sweet without appearing rude or too abrupt. Setting a strict agenda and staying on topic will keep people focused. Training people to have effective chairing skills is also key – good chairing leads to good decision making, inclusion of the views of all parties and good time keeping.

Banning mobile phones and tablets at meetings is also important. In this age of technology when everyone is constantly connected it can be difficult for people to remain attentive if they are constantly looking at their phone. At best they will be giving 50% of their attention, often missing the key points of the meeting, making it a waste of time.

Here are my ten tips on making meetings more productive:

  • Always have an objective for a meeting and make sure you achieve that outcome
  • Always set an agenda and stick to it
  • Get rid of the chairs – get the energy flowing and get people focused
  • Make sure to send the agenda out in plenty of time to each participant so they know what is expected of them
  • Set a time limit. Most meetings should be contained within an hour. No meeting should go over three hours, if it does it needs serious justification
  • Focus on results, decisions and solution – not problems
  • Always appoint someone to chair the meeting and keep everyone on topic
  • Set a good example by always being on time
  • Only invite the right people to be able to achieve the objective of the meeting
  • Follow up any meeting with key actions and deadlines

By Stephen Archer, business analyst and Director of Spring Partnerships