While meetings in the workplace are typically unavoidable, they shouldn’t be too long or a waste of time for you and your colleagues. In fact, they should be a productive use of your time to take decisions in the workplace, or collaborate around the task at hand. But how can you ensure that the time is being spent wisely, and that your meetings won’t run to long? There are a few strategies to try to make for your most efficient meetings.
1. Plan ahead
To make a meeting as efficient as possible, you simply must plan ahead. When creating your meeting agenda, make sure that you are including the key people in the meeting and defining what they will be contributing. When you explicitly tell attendees what role they will have in the meeting, and what they should be prepared to bring or present, you can make sure there is no time wasted on what should be discussed next.
2. Set time limits
The biggest factors for inefficient meetings are not setting time constraints, or starting on time. If you allow small talk and chit-chat to railroad a prompt beginning, you may end up being off time or out of synch for the entirety of the meeting. Be sure that when attendees arrive they are ready to go. Schedule transitions and specific allotted time for each topic or person presenting to make sure time is being kept. When no set time limits are in place, one or two people can dominate the meeting, leaving little time for other discussions and making attendees feel meetings are boring, inefficient - or worse - pointless.
3. Supply materials
Meetings are necessary for essentially two reasons: to brief a team on a development, milestone, results, or a new project, and to collaborate around a task or problem to be solved. When it’s the former, meetings can drone on covering information that not all staff need to have explicitly explained. When this is the case, make meetings brief, summarizing main points and then supplying materials (via handouts or email PDFs) that they can later review at their own pace. Most teams will have members with different levels of comprehension or ability to grasp information quickly. Because of this, when you supply materials for personal review outside of the meeting setting, employees can take as little or as much time as they need for covering the information.
4. Reflect and get feedback
Perfecting meeting efficiency is an ongoing process for almost every company. So ask your colleagues and staff to reflect on meetings and provide feedback for what went wrong and what went right. To really be efficient, you should have as close to a consensus as you can get on what makes meetings enjoyable, productive, and a useful way for time spent. Most importantly, work to improve the things that aren’t working - don’t just continue to be inefficient!
Meetings may be unavoidable, but they don’t have to take up enormous amounts of time. If you can create the environment for maximized productivity in meetings by planning ahead and setting the pace, supplying follow up materials for review outside of meetings, and garnering continuous feedback, you’ll find your meetings becoming more efficient.