Business Insider Australia reported in 2014 that 66% of 3,900 workers feel that the time they spend in meetings is of zero value, and that this is having a negative effect on their productivity. Worse, 88% report that the number of meetings that they have to attend are static or on the rise.
To be clear, a useless 15-minute meeting doesn’t translate into only 15 lost minutes. Rather, the correct number is 15 minutes lost x the number of employees in that meeting. If you have multiple unproductive meetings a week or in a month, you could be losing some serious productivity. This in turn can translate to thousands of dollars being lost from your bottom line.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can regain those lost minutes.
Measure the meetings
Is a meeting necessary at all? Can the meat of what you (or an employee) have to present be handled just as easily in an email, a quick chat, or a “Can I have your attention please?” that will stop the office for only a minute or so? Do you have some kind of workflow software that could alert others to a new situation or bit of information?
If you’re constantly having meetings with managers or section heads underneath you, this might be an indication of a bigger problem – that you don’t trust those people to get their jobs done. Are your meetings actually an indication that you’re micromanaging? If so, you might have to address either A) you don’t have the right people in those positions or B) you need to change your own management style.
Create an agenda
If you do feel the meeting is a necessity, get down on paper what you want to say. Put in time limits on the agenda – Topic 1: 5 minutes. Topic 2: 10 minutes. Questions: 5 minutes. (Setting times might take some practice before you’re proficient at it.)
Either hand copies out or email them ahead of time, or project the agenda during the meeting so everyone in attendance can see it. This way you take a firm hold of the pacing of the meeting, and display that it is only about Subject X, keeping your team from diverting to other subject areas.
You’re also going to want an end-goal. Is the meeting about getting people up-to-speed on a new bit of equipment? Or is it about getting vote? Maybe it’s about getting an update on the progress of certain sections within your business. Whatever the case, make sure that your goal is concrete and identifiable.
Only invite the necessary team members
The fewer people invited, the less overall company time is used up by the meeting.
If the meeting involves teams, have each team designate a spokesperson. You don’t want various members of a team constantly chiming in and interrupting one another.
Start on time
Unless you’re missing someone who is absolutely essential, begin the meeting on time. The tardy members will have to catch up. This will become a known factor for your employees and they’ll begin to show up on time in order to avoid embarrassment.
Make sure you (or your presenter) is the sole focus of attention
Agendas make sure people are paying attention. So does insisting that people are not allowed to bring in phones, tablets, or what have you, unless of course they’re necessary for the meeting.
The reason you ban them outright is that if you only insist on them not being powered on, you may lose minutes to people shutting down their devices. Better to not have them in the room at all.
Hold meetings outside of company time
This tip depends somewhat on just what it is you want to discuss, plus the personality of the people you’re going to be meeting with. But if it’s possible to hold a meeting outside of money-making time, why not give it a go? For example, you can meet prospective partners over lunch or on the golf course. Or you can chat during your kids’ little league games.
End with clarity
Whatever the goal of your meeting, make sure that everyone involved has a crystal clear understanding of how things ended. You can do this with an email wrap-up that quickly details the decisions that were made during the meeting. This can also list actions that were decided upon and need to be taken by team members. And it’s also a handy way to let others who weren’t in the meeting know where the business is heading.