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When yet another meeting pops up in your calendar, what is your first thought? For many of us, the constant trend for more and more workplace meetings leaves us groaning in despair. After all, many meetings end up being a waste of time, and our to-do list isn’t getting any shorter!
According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers say meetings are unproductive or inefficient, while 62% say that meetings miss out on opportunities to bring the team closer together. But meetings are still a vital foundation for excellent communication in the workplace. So as a manager, how can you make meetings a more enjoyable and purposeful affair?
Plan shorter meetings
Hour-long meetings have somehow become the norm, but there’s no real reason for this. Often, a meeting will last for as long as you have allowed. So before you schedule your next meeting, consider if you could do it in half the time. It’s in everyone’s interests to keep the meeting to the point, so staff are likely to be more energetic and productive if they know the meeting is only short. Even with short meetings, don’t be tempted to rush straight to the nitty-gritty. Take time to establish a positive tone for the meeting, for example, by reflecting on successes since last time, or asking staff to share one thing that’s gone well this week.
Have a solid agenda
Having a robust agenda can help you to keep the session short and to the point. Circulate the meeting agenda well in advance, so staff have the chance to think ahead and prepare. This can save lost time and prevent stalling in the session. Your agenda should be centered around the purpose of your meeting and the outcomes you hope to achieve. If you can’t think of the purpose of the meeting or any vitally important topics, consider scrapping it altogether. Perhaps you could replace it with an informal, and short, team catch-up instead. Also examine precisely who needs to be there, according to what will be on the agenda. If some of the team aren’t directly involved, you could make attendance optional for them and circulate the minutes afterward to keep everyone in the loop.
Capitalize on informal options
Could some of your team get-togethers take the form of a catch-up, rather than a formal meeting? If it’s just a case of feeding back on this week’s progress or targets, you could consider doing this over a team breakfast. Offering tasty treats is bound to make staff feel better towards meetings! Keeping a relaxed and conversational tone can also help to keep staff engaged since it’s much easier to switch off if one person is doing all the talking. You could even use a short ice-breaker to get everyone engaged right at the start, to set the tone of an energetic and productive meeting. Informal options can also help to get quieter members of staff to share their ideas, which could help move the conversation along. Breaking into smaller teams for brainstorms within a meeting can be useful, too.
Make it visual
Death by powerpoint is never a good thing. But making a meeting more visual can add a spark of interest and get people thinking. There are lots of other ways to bring visuals to the meeting. You could kick off the meeting with an image or short video that captures the topic and can be used to get the conversation rolling. Another visual tool is to capture staff ideas on sticky notes or large sheets of paper, which can be saved for next time for reflection. You could also get people to visually represent their ideas on a proposal with their bodies, either by raising hands or by standing at different ends of the room according to how much they agree or disagree.
Location, location, location
If your meeting room is uncomfortable, the mood in the room will be low. Rooms with no ventilation and no natural light will leave staff feeling tired and uninspired, and awkward or ugly furnishings will do nothing to motivate your team. Make sure the meeting room is up to scratch. You could invest in comfortable chairs or custom conference tables. Even standing, rather than sitting, around the conference table has been shown to get groups more fired up for teamwork. Or you could leave the meeting room behind altogether. Walking meetings are becoming increasingly popular since the exercise can help stimulate ideas, and the informal setting allows for more free-flowing dialogue.