Meetings. The word alone is sure to induce groans, eye-rolling, and collective facepalms from both employees and managers alike. While meetings may not be a crowd favorite, their importance for improving and maintaining communication, productivity, and employee engagement can’t be denied – but only if they’re done right. With the right approach, you can ensure that your work meetings are a benefit to your organization, and not a detriment.
Preparedness is Key
If improv is your thing, it’s best to save those skills for the stage, not the conference room. Going into a meeting without preparing yourself and your employees with materials and a clear agenda is the perfect recipe for an unproductive meeting. Always provide attendees with relevant handouts and information plenty of time in advance, at least one full day if possible. This ensures that everyone is on the same page concerning the purpose of the meeting, and provides ample time for participants to prepare. As the meeting leader, always have a solid plan for how the meeting is going to be run, and take plenty of time for yourself to prepare as well.
Don’t Force Unnecessary Meetings
Constant, mandatory meetings, or what I like to call “meeting mania”, may seem like the right move in order to keep everyone on the same page and improve workflow. However, it can actually have the reverse effect on productivity and morale. Employees who are compelled to attend meetings that never really needed to happen in the first place will not only be less productive as a result of the time wasted in the meeting, but they will also resent the fact that their productivity was negatively impacted. In addition, the less meetings an employee is expected to attend, the more valuable each meeting will be for them, encouraging them to make the most of their time communicating with the group and staying engaged.
So, how do you protect your company from developing a culture in which meeting mania is the norm? Before scheduling a meeting, it’s always important to ask yourself: what is the objective of this meeting? Is a meeting truly necessary in order to meet this objective? Are there simpler, more time-efficient methods in which these objectives can be met without interrupting workflow, like an e-mail or a quick one-on-one conversation? If you are able to determine that a meeting is not necessary based on these questions, there is no shame in letting that meeting slide.
Keep Employees Engaged
Remember – meetings are meant to be meetings, not monologues. While it’s important to present relevant information to the group, it should never be a one-way conversation unless you want to witness a chorus of yawns among a sea of disengaged employees. Keeping attendees engaged is especially vital during the age of COVID, when virtual meetings are still common – nothing is stopping an employee from getting distracted from their computer or even taking a nice clandestine powernap during the meeting (after hitting the mute button to hide their snores, of course). The best way to remedy this is by keeping attendees involved by asking for their opinions and ideas, encouraging them to ask questions often, and promoting relevant discussions among the group. The key word here is relevant – don’t be afraid to keep the conversation on topic if discussions stray from the focal point of the meeting, or if they begin to go around in circles – the bane of existence for many meetings.
It’s important to note that everything mentioned above can be made significantly easier if you focus on smaller meetings, in which each participant is guaranteed to provide value to the discussion. While it may seem like this can only work for small companies, this idea has been condoned by Elon Musk. If it works for Tesla, it can work for you.
Practice Proper Post-Meeting Patterns
Ah yes, the four P’s – without them, all the time spent in meetings could be rendered useless. If you neglect to take the right steps even after the show’s over, even highly successful meetings could potentially become a waste of time for you and your employees. You can’t always expect all in attendance to just take what was said and run with it simply because the meeting has ended. In order to solidify the meeting’s impact, it’s imperative that attendees receive a summary as soon as possible, while all of the relevant ideas and assignments are still fresh – never more than a full day beyond the meeting. Consistent check-ins are also recommended to ensure that tasks and objectives set are being acted on.
When it comes to favorite workplace traditions, meetings may not always be at the top of the list. If you implement the right strategies, however, the conference room may just become the most valuable room in the office.