When many people envision meetings, they picture a boss or supervisor spouting off demands and statistics for an extended period of time while employees stare mindlessly toward the head of the room. These meetings can be an enormous waste of time if bosses don’t involve employees, and the employees lack focus and dedication to the completion of a specific agenda. But when meetings are interactive, focused, and well-scheduled, they can be incredibly productive. Three aspects to focus on when putting together an office meeting are:
1. Making them memorable
Each meeting should stand out on its own in order to make it unique and worth remembering. Schedule meetings for odd times, such as 9:17 rather than 9:15 or 9:30. Communications manager of TINY Pulse Neal MacNamara explains that consistently scheduling meetings at 8:48 has “eliminated tardiness almost completely” within his company. Such a simple change will keep employees on their toes the morning of the meeting, and no one will come in dragging their feet a few minutes late.
Use ice breakers to begin the meeting, but have them relate directly to the current agenda. Give employees time to get their thoughts out into the air, so they’re not afraid to speak up when the discussion swings toward the topic they were talking to a colleague about minutes earlier. This “connection before content” method has allowed employees at LivePerson to get to know each other better, and feel more comfortable speaking up about an issue they had been facing.
Josh Neblett, cofounder and CEO of the e-commerce company Etailz, believes the final 5-10 minutes of a meeting should be used for any questions or concerns that may have arisen throughout the meeting. Rather than telling employees to “come see me in my office if you have any questions,” this deliberate time is set in order to confront problems head on. This is especially effective because it’s likely that more than one person has a similar question, and the leader of the meeting can get the answer out to everyone right away rather than answering it individually five different times.
2. Making them effective
All meetings should have a specific agenda that dictates exactly what topics will be discussed. CEO of Brivo Steve Van Till created “No Re-hash” ping pong paddles for all employees to use throughout a meeting when someone brings something up that has either already been discussed at length, or will detract from the agenda at hand. Instead of belaboring the point or wasting time saying “We’ve already talked about this, but if you have any questions…”, other members of the meeting can simply raise the paddle, and the speaker will know to save what he has to say until he can speak with the boss privately.
Other offices have implemented punishments for coming in late to meetings. These punishments aren’t severe; rather, they are humorous and embarrassing ways to deal with interruptions and tardiness. One company forces latecomers to walk in singing a nursery rhyme or other song, which, of course, makes them uncomfortable when the focus shifts from serious business to such a menial interruption. Another company has implemented a policy which forces employees to donate to the company charity if their cell phone goes off and interrupts a meeting. These detractors certainly work more than any actual discipline would while still maintaining a high sense of employee morale.
3. Making them short
Everyone likes short meetings, right? Well, all meetings could be short if the time is used effectively. While employees should be held accountable for their timeliness and attentiveness during meetings, the person who called the meeting is the one who needs to have effective time management skills in order to be effective. Having (and sticking to) a clear, concise agenda is the first step in putting together a meeting that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Many companies implement a thirty-minute timer, knowing that people are hard-wired to be able to focus for only 25-30 minutes at a time, and anything over that time period will go in one ear and out the other. You may also consider ‘punishments’ have been implemented for running over time, such as donating to the company charity or holiday party jar. This way both attendees and the people running the meeting have to adhere to the time restriction.
Meetings have a bad rap because they often detract from a company’s productivity, which is the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do. Like all other progressive and innovative measures taken in the business world today, revamping the structure of meetings by thinking outside the box allows leaders to make efficient use of meetings, and makes sure employees get the most out of them.
Featured photo credit: 140811-N-AF077-043 / Ash Carter via farm4.staticflickr.com