“Well, that’s half an hour of my life I’m never getting back…”
How many times have you muttered this under your breath as you head back to your desk after another pointless meeting?
There are the meetings that go on for so long that you can practically see your colleagues ageing before your eyes. There are the meetings that seem to have everyone just going round in circles, never coming to any sort of useful conclusion. And then there are meetings that are so boring you find yourself agreeing to something that you weren’t even listening to!
It’s no wonder that employees view meetings as a complete waste of time, and that so many SMEs try to avoid them. However, meetings can be hugely beneficial to your business — you just have to know how to do them right.
Here are our six top tips for meetings worth leaving your desk for:
1. Ask yourself — is this meeting really necessary?
If your team is getting sick of constant meetings, it’s worth asking yourself if planning another one is strictly necessary. Could you find another way of resolving issues? Maybe a quick discussion, email exchange or a conference call with a couple of the key players would suffice.
A common theme of SME meetings is morale boosting. Now, we think anything that boosts staff morale is never a waste of time but, is another meeting the best way to do this? The odd early finish or extended lunch break might lift staff far more than a Monday morning huddle.
2. Do your planning.
If you can’t avoid calling a staff meeting, make sure you get the most out of it by planning effectively. Time the meeting strategically. You’ll never make progress if you hold a staff get-together late on a Friday afternoon when everyone has already mentally clocked off for the week.
Set an agenda. Ensure you have a clear objective for the meeting and that you have planned the key points you’ll need to cover.
Allow your staff to prepare. Give your employees advance warning of the meeting’s objectives. This will allow them to turn up with a few suggestions already prepped and you’ll be able to get straight to the problem-solving part of the agenda instead of having to fill everyone in on the basics.
One of the most common complaints about business meetings is the length of time they take. For the most part, people’s attention spans simply aren’t that great. If your team members are constantly looking at their watches, wishing they could get back to their desks, nobody will accomplish much.
Keep meetings short and sweet. Instead of providing comfortable chairs, have everyone stand up. They’ll stay alert and you’re far more likely to finish on time.
Alternatively, you could try a visual aid. Project a countdown timer onto the wall of your meeting room or place a giant hourglass on the boardroom table. When you see the sand running out, you’ll know it’s time to start wrapping up.
4. Find ways to cut down on interruptions.
Isn’t it frustrating when someone turns up ten minutes late and you have to sit through a repeat of the meeting’s introduction? Equally annoying is when someone’s phone starts ringing and you all lose momentum as you wait for them to silence it.
Cut down on these interruptions by introducing penalties for offenders. At the start of the meeting, remind employees to pop their phones on silent — anyone who doesn’t comply will have to put £5 into a fund for the company’s chosen charity. Anyone who saunters in late will have to do 50 push ups or run on the spot for the duration of the meeting. We can almost guarantee that you won’t have to suffer any more interruptions!
5. Switch up locations.
Sometimes, all we need is a change of scene. If your staff meetings are beginning to feel a bit stale and creativity has dwindled, get out of the office.
If you have any parks or green spaces nearby, get everyone outside for a walking meeting. Fresh air, exercise and some time spent in nature are great for keeping people alert and for getting the creative juices flowing again.
6. End the meeting efficiently.
Make the most of your meeting by ending it on the right note. Summarise any decisions you’ve made and ensure everyone knows what their next steps will be. If you can, it’s also worth setting a date and objective for the next meeting to allow staff to plan their time effectively.
Done right, meetings can be great for sharing information, promoting teamwork and increasing productivity. If you’ve been avoiding your meeting room, it’s time to dust off the conference table and break out the coffee pot. Just don’t forget the hourglass!
Stick to our tips and unproductive, yawn-inducing meetings should be a thing of the past.