Top 10 Tips for Running a Productive Meeting

You’re busy, I get it. Trying to find the perfect work/life balance is tough, but there is help from tools like IFTTT or marketing automation. But there’s no tool or magic stick replacing the dreaded meeting.

They can be tremendously beneficial, or the bane of managers and employees alike. Often thought of as a time waster, or a necessary evil, meetings often get a bad rap that’s even backed up by data. Still, they’re sometimes the best way to communicate a message or hash out a problem with several people at once.

But there has to be a better way! Until telepathy is refined, meetings are here to stay. Rather than making your next meeting the dread of your day, let’s chat about ten ways to make them more productive.

1. Have An Objective

Each week I conduct a meeting with my team on Monday mornings. This is my time to catch up with each of them on their weekly agendas, review the week ahead, and hash out any changes that might affect other team members.

Our objective: set ourselves up for a successful week. Coming into this meeting, everyone is aware of the objective and prepares accordingly. Since we’re all working towards the same goal, we’re better prepared with changes that might affect other team members, and shifting priorities to accommodate them early in the week versus at the last minute.

2. Set A Consistent Time

We have two standing meetings weekly – a 10 am team meeting on Mondays and a 3:30 pm sales meeting on Fridays. Since these times don’t change, it helps the team plan activities before and after these meetings, eliminating downtime. They know what time they need to wrap up what they’re working on and when they can expect to pick it back up.

3. Set an Agenda

Meetings often get a bad rap because they’re used to plan other meetings. That’s no way to be productive or to use your time efficiently.

Prior to the meeting, set the agenda and send it out to meeting participants. Having time to review the agenda in advance allows employees to gather their thoughts and ideas and makes for a more efficient meeting.

Do you think you need an agenda with a standing meeting? You bet! The 3:30 meeting my team has weekly with our director of sales is always about our buyer personas. That doesn’t change, but the persona we’re discussing does. The content varies widely, so it benefits to send out an agenda before your standing meetings too.

4. Stick to the Agenda

An agenda helps everyone in the meeting know what to expect next. Provide a printed copy or put it on the whiteboard for everyone to see. Then stick to it! If something comes up that you want to dig into more, make note of it and move on. You can always follow up later.

5. Eliminate Technology

It’s hard, really hard, not to give into checking your smartphone when it buzzes or a little light flickers. Do your attendees need the distraction of smartphones, tablets, or laptops to effectively participate in a meeting? If the answer is no, ask them to leave their technology at their desks. Doing so will result in real conversations and ideas, fostering more productive and motivated employees.

6. Listen, Participate, and Engage

As the coordinator of the meeting, you’re looking for feedback, ideas, and discussion of ideas – correct? Of course. Otherwise what’s the point of the meeting? But do you really listen to what’s being said during the meeting, or are you doing all the talking?

Sure, sometimes you’re running a more educational meeting, in which case you may have to talk a lot. But even in this case, are you engaging your team? Ask more open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions. Get those around you participating.

7. With Participation Might Come Conflict

People have passion, and with passion come ideas. But unfortunately sometimes co-workers disagree on which ideas are the best course of action. Conflicts can derail meetings but it’s important to settle them quickly and without prejudice.

Look for non-verbal cues (crossing arms, rolling eyes, etc.) and even verbal cues early on and be proactive in your approach to settling the conflict. If the conflict continues, stick to your agenda, and settle the discussion elsewhere with the parties affected.

8. Manage the Conflict Upfront

Sometimes there are a few big personalities in an organization, which has its benefits, but can come with drawbacks, too. If you know your meetings are notorious for being derailed by conflict, plan ahead.

The Six Thinking Hats method might be just what you need. Each person in the meeting is given a different color hat representing a different aspect of the meeting to focus on. Wearing a specific hat helps participants look at a situation from the view of another, and often helps to manage varying points of view. This method opens up creativity and pushes down pessimistic tendencies, thus creating more fruitful and engaging meetings.

9. Follow-up after the Meeting

Follow-up with an email of what was discussed during the meeting and any follow-up needed on behalf of a team member. If there are small things to be done after a meeting, such as forwarding an email or confirming information, do so quickly. Long-term next steps should be followed up with calendar requests, or your organization’s equivalent. And, if you’re utilizing software to manage your projects, data entry should occur quickly following the meeting.

10. If All Else Fails, Change It Up!

Are your meetings always held in the same conference room or office? Kinda boring, eh? Change your environment up! Can you head outdoors or to a local coffee shop? Do it! Anywhere can be a productive meeting spot if you want it to be – one of my most productive meetings was on the R train in New York. If you need to be creative, sometimes getting outside of your four walls is all you need.

Painful meetings are bad for everyone, so aim to conduct meaningful meetings, or eliminate them in lieu of one-with-ones. It’ll help your organization be more succinct, positive, and proactive, and reduce employees’ reluctance to meetings in no time.