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How to Make Meetings Suck Less

Every business wants to present itself as lean and efficient , and not an organization that spends an enormous amount of time and money on ineffective operations. However, conducting a meeting often translates to exactly that, much to the dismay of companies worldwide.

Carson Tate, the founder and principal of Working Simply, says that, "Meetings rarely result in actionable work. Workers spend on average six to seven hours per week in meetings, and are then forced to do the real work they were hired to do on the margins of their day. This leads to burnout, which leads to retention and attrition issues."

When your workers are forced to attend a meeting, it can often lead to lethargy without any work getting done.

Statistics from Bain & Company revealed that holding weekly meetings wasted about 300,000 hours a year. This could easily sound like a joke, but not so surprisingly enough, it's actually true. When you think about it, the amount of time wasted on meetings is indeed astounding.

At MeetingPulse, we know that meetings can be productive with the right tools. Here's our guide to keeping them concise and effective.

Ways to Make Meetings Effective

It was in 2011 when the workers at Basecamp (previously 37Signals) declared January 19th as "National Boycott A Meeting Day", and received almost 2000 tweets supporting the idea. In fact, Craigslist even eliminated meetings altogether in 2009. Needless to say, meetings are viewed as a nuisance pretty much everywhere.

Whether we like them or not, meetings as a concept aren't going to go away completely. After all, getting together to discuss the company's objectives and how to move forward with new innovations is a team effort that should take place every once in a while. Meetings can even be enjoyable. Luckily, many startups as well as established companies are now experimenting with new formats of meetings to make them more effective and efficient.

Here are some ways in which you can conduct meetings that are worthy of everyone's time:

Identify Clear Meeting Goals

The very first thing you need to do in order to improve the quality of meetings is to make sure each and every one of them has a clear purpose.

Take a closer look at the issues you hope to discuss at the meeting and determine what they have in common. Structure the information around a central theme or issue. If there seems to be too many unrelated points of discussion, then it might be more efficient to hold separate meetings for related stakeholders. This will help boost the productivity of your employees.

Having a clear goal will help you get things done more effectively. Instead of spending too much time on a tangential detail, you'll methodically address subpoints with the bigger picture in mind.

Related: 25 Fun Poll Questions to Ask Your Audience

Make the Agenda Known in Advance

Whereas the results of a meeting can often be surprising, don't let the reason behind a meeting remain a surprise. Always share the agenda beforehand so that the employees know exactly what the meeting is going to be about. This helps keep everyone on track and prepare with potential questions or important data points.

Once the agenda has been shared, the respective teams and departments can start planning their presentations or strategies. Encourage ideas to be jotted down beforehand so that there aren't any long pauses or stumbling blocks when the meeting is being conducted.

Make use of communication spaces to create a group. This can be employed to inform everyone regarding the small details of the meeting and discuss things important action items so that the meeting can be conducted smoothly and be done with soon. MeetingPulse also offers event planning and on-site support to help you streamline your agenda.

Related: Communicating Change can be Tough - Feedback is the Key!

Set a Time Limit

Once the agenda is known in advance, meetings usually don't take much time to be over. However, if you still feel like it's taking ages to reach a conclusion, it's better to assign a time limit.

Once a particular limit has been set, everyone present in the meeting will be prepared enough to present their ideas during that assigned period of time. This improves concision, encouraging employees to present important information more clearly.

You can also make use of the "speedy meetings" setting in Google Calendar. This automatically restricts your meetings to end within half an hour.

Keep Planning and Problem Solving Meetings Intimate and Small

It's a known fact that the larger the group, the noisier the outcome. Therefore, make your meetings as small and intimate as possible. Use small meetings to plan for larger meetings so that all of the employees are only present when they really need to be.

For example, if the meeting you're planning to have involves the design team, be sure to only involve those who belong to the design department. Don't get the tech or content team involved, because that will only result in unnecessary noise.

When there are fewer people involved in a meeting, the work gets done quicker, and everyone actually gets the chance to speak and put their ideas across. Not everyone is outspoken and extroverted enough to voice their opinions in a meeting. This results in good ideas getting dissolved amidst the crowd. Therefore, invite only those people who you think will actually contribute towards the success of a meeting.

For larger meetings, use tools like MeetingPulse so you have a way to collect feedback without having to respond to large volumes right away.

Evaluate the Value of a Meeting Invite

This one goes hand-in-hand with keeping meetings intimate, but from the employees' point of view instead of the ones organizing the meeting. As an employee, it's both your right and responsibility to assess the value of every meeting invite that comes your way.

Ask yourself questions like — Will this meeting be worth your time? Will the ideas discussed in this meeting contribute to the work that you do in the company? Will you yourself be able to provide valuable input to the conversation? And so on.

Also, ask whether or not you'll be agitating anyone if you don't attend this meeting. Ask yourself if you might gain valuable information or opportunities to network. If the answer to all of these questions is no, then by all means, feel free not to attend the meeting.

Not only will this empower you as a worker and an individual, it will also encourage others to take the same step if required, and let management see that not everyone needs to be present in every meeting.

Make Use of Technology

We have a lot to thank tech for, one of them being the fact that we now have so many tools at our disposal to communicate with our fellow workers. Technology has made the workforce become more mobile, global, and remote.

There are so many organizations out there that work with freelancers and remote employees. In fact, there are some operating completely with the help of remote teams. So, how do the workers of these companies communicate with each other? The answer is simple: By using various apps for audio calls, text messages, and video conferences.

These technological tools need not be saved just for remote teams. When you want to hold a meeting with a worker who's out of the office for someone, or if an urgent meeting needs to take place really late at night, what do you do? That's right; you resort to video calls or conference calls.

If a particular meeting can take place in a chat app or through Skype or so, then by all means, conduct it that way. Keep a track of which tool your employees prefer using the most, and employ this intel into modifying your meeting strategies.

Tech tools are also a great way to keep people engaged in meetings whether or not they are remote. MeetingPulse offers live polling and data analysis, so you can use meetings as an opportunity to collect valuable feedback, concerns, and more.

By implementing a poll or questionnaire during a corporate event, employees will be more likely to fill them out because you're setting aside time for them to do so.

Invest in Teaching Communication Skills

The prime objective of a meeting is to put ideas across so that everyone can chime in and particular goals can be set. You need strong communication skills in order for this to take place. However, not everyone is confident enough to have the spotlight on them during a meeting.

One way to get over this hurdle is to invest in training and professional development courses. These help in enhancing the communication skills of employees so that they can experience the confidence they need to voice out their opinions, opposing thoughts, and so on.

Improve communication capabilities at larger meetings by using MeetingPulse, the live polling company for better engagement.

Set Communication Standards

Part of what makes meetings so frustrating is the lack of clear guidelines — we've all walked into those meetings where it feels like listening to a random manager filibuster himself for 60 horribly inefficient meetings.

Consider borrowing a page from Jeff Bezos' book. Every meeting must be supplemented with a simple, press-release style 6-page memo that whoever called the meeting must run through.

The benefit of this approach is that it prevents pointless communication and forces you to cut a meeting down into it's barebones — particularly well in advance of the actual meeting. No more wasted time running into tangents and discussing arbitrary things that pop into mind.

Make all meetings optional

It's a radical idea, but if you think about it, it makes sense. Assuming you hire competent people who you trust, why do you have to mandate attending meetings for them? Shouldn't employees be able to make their own value judgements on whether a meeting is useful or not to completing their job? Isn't it odd to have it done for them?

By making all meetings optional, you'll actually be encouraging employees to think about which meetings will be useful to them and which won't. By showing trust and empowering your employees, you'll probably quickly find that the sheer volume of meetings doesn't drop — instead, attendance redistributes in a more logical, efficient way.

Summing Up

More often than not, companies hold meeting without any solid reason. This causes the employees to experience unnecessary fatigue and waste the time they could have used to complete their tasks and increase productivity. Therefore, before a meeting is called, it's necessary to analyze its costs and benefits.

As technology has become even more efficient in the past few years, companies should make use of the audio, video, and text applications available to conduct important meetings. Since it's not always possible to have everyone present in a meeting, this works as a much better solution.

In addition to this, employees, too, should have the freedom to decide whether they want to attend a meeting or not, based on the fact that perhaps their presence won't really add to the value of every meeting that's conducted. This allows the workers to focus on tasks that are more urgent and relevant, thereby allowing the management to conduct more efficient meetings.

Conducting a meeting is not an issue in itself. It's the cause of the meeting that should be solid and justified. Your employees shouldn't view these meetings as a massive waste of time. Instead, they should view meetings as group gatherings where all of you collectively work towards the betterment of the organization.

Let the meetings be more niche and focused by inviting only those who will truly be able to contribute with their ideas and inputs. Everyone present in the room during a meeting should know what the meeting is about, what's going to be discussed, and what needs to be accomplished by the end of it.

Remember that being able to conduct a competent meeting takes time. It's only when everyone contributes all their efforts and innovative ideas that a meeting can be successful. Therefore, test out a few strategies and formats, and you'll eventually end up with ways that suit your company best.

Check out MeetingPulse to find out more about how live polling and data strategy can improve your meetings.

Related: How to Get People to Take a Survey

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