We live in a culture of morning meetings and evening catchups. Recent research suggests that only in the US, there are 56 million meetings daily. Also, a typical office worker spends around six hours a week in meetings, while managers spend 23 hours in meetings per week. 23 hours? That’s almost a full day. Unfortunately, meetings are usually boring, not organized well and sometimes not helpful at all. Luckily, we have some tips on how to make meetings more helpful to individuals and organizations.
These tips are based on scientific research and in the past few decades, academics have been very much interested in researching meetings. Too often, meetings are perceived as a good idea in theory while too often they are a bad idea in practice. Meetings force us to communicate with each other, to resolve problems, to escalate issues, to brainstorm on solutions, but the reality is too often completely different.
In business meetings, we have so many opportunities to generate new ideas, solve problems, exchange information across departments and roles and connect with co-workers as human beings.
Why is it that in reality meetings are far away from these goals? Why are meetings draining our morale and wasting our money? According to calculations by Lucid Meetings, organizations spend anywhere between $70 and $283 billion a year on something that’s not effective. Plus, meetings can decrease employees’ enthusiasm and they tax our economy.
In a recent paper, a team of researchers from Clemson University and the University of Nebraska Omaha looked through 200 studies of meetings. They put a comprehensive list of science-based tips for leading a meeting. Here are some of the tips that can help you and your organization have more effective meetings.
- Set the main goals for the meeting. Ask yourself what is the purpose of this meeting? After a meeting, see if the goals were met or if they are in the process of being met.
- Answer a tough question – do we need a meeting today? Daily meetings are sometimes just a habit, sometimes they are useful and sometimes they are not. Will one email be enough to communicate what you plan to discuss in the meeting?
- Invite all key stakeholders. You might spend significant time thinking about a great idea, brainstorming and then a manager decides that the idea will not be put in place. All the people who are making decisions should be on the invite list for the daily/weekly meetings.
- Write and share an agenda before the meeting so everyone can come prepared before the meeting.
- Stick to the agenda. There is no point of writing an agenda if you are going to talk about any topics no matter if they are listed on the agenda or not.
- Avoid and steer away from expressions such as “It’s hopeless” or “I can’t do anything about this.” Instead, ask for help. “What can we do as a team?” or “How can I help?” A meeting should not be discouraging, it should be a place where we find ideas and solutions for current issues in the organization.
- Encourage participation from everyone. If you are having a meeting, make sure everyone is involved. When people just listen and receive information passively, they tend to tune out.
- Treat everyone with respect. Minimizing or mocking someone’s idea will discourage people to talk or share any ideas in the future.
- Have fun and joke around. An upbeat and positive atmosphere is a great way to start a meeting.
- Send meeting minutes promptly and make sure action points are included.
For the next meeting, pick up action points from the previous meeting to make sure you can follow the progress if certain issues have been completely forgotten.