In today’s remote work landscape, employees are having to spend more time in virtual meetings in order to stay connected. But the problem is, not every meeting is productive. Sometimes, instead of spending an hour doing project planning, employees spend most of that hour talking about their weekend plans.
The truth is, having more meetings won’t benefit your employees — unless those meetings are productive. In this article, we discuss a few tips to help keep meetings on track. From creating an agenda to taking detailed notes, here’s how to ensure your team gets the most out of meetings.
Table of Contents
1. Develop a Meeting Agenda
We’ve all been to our fair share of bad meetings where the conversation was scattered and nothing was accomplished. Not only are those meetings a general waste of time, but they can cause friction internally. A good way to ensure your meetings stay on task is by creating a meeting agenda.
A meeting agenda serves as the outline for your meeting. It should include who’s leading the meeting, what’s being discussed, detailed talking points, action items, and so on. In short, a meeting agenda should keep the discussion focused and give attendees a clear idea of what to expect.
That leads to our next point. After you create a meeting agenda, share it with your team ahead of time. Let’s say you’re going to be discussing a topic your employees aren’t familiar with. You could end up having to provide extensive context, which can drain a lot of time. By providing staff with a meeting agenda beforehand, they’ll have time to prepare and ask questions before the meeting starts.
2. Keep Meetings Short
It’s a known fact that short meetings are more productive than long ones. According to research, it requires a great amount of glucose and oxygen for the human body to process new information. The shorter the meeting, the easier it’ll be for your employees to retain what’s been discussed.
So do your best to keep meetings short and sweet. If you have a lot to cover, break meetings up rather than hold your team hostage. For instance, instead of scheduling a one-hour meeting, schedule two 30-minute meetings (on different days, of course).
It’s also worth mentioning that shorter meetings are more likely to be productive than longer ones. Think about it. How many one-hour meetings have you attended that spent at least 10 minutes on chitchat? Probably a lot.
Now, how many 15-minute meetings have you been in that stayed on task from start to finish? Likely most of them. When the time frame is compressed, people use the time available in a more focused fashion.
3. Be Mindful of Schedules
It’s hardly a surprise that not everyone loves meetings. They can often feel like a hassle, especially when employees have to stop what they’re doing midday to hop on a call. With that in mind, do your best to choose meeting times that work with your attendees’ schedules.
Obviously, you can’t make everyone happy. But if you want to schedule a call with one of your managers, it’s a good idea to pick a day when they aren’t swamped. The same goes for your employees. Mid-afternoon meetings can be incredibly disruptive when your staff is trying to complete projects. Try to schedule meetings just after lunch or near the end of the day.
You should also be mindful of time zones. Chances are, your employees may be working in different parts of the country or even the world. Keep their time zones in mind when scheduling meetings so employees aren’t having to work outside normal business hours.
4. Keep It Small
The more people in a meeting, the easier it is to get off task. When employees encounter seldom-seen members of other departments, the temptation to play personal catch-up is hard to resist.
While you might have information to share with the entire team, consider doing so through some other means besides a meeting. For example, you could send out a company newsletter or an email. By choosing one of those options, you avoid holding meetings with too many people, which often devolve into side chats.
When you create your meeting agenda, really pay attention to your overall goal. Once you know the purpose of the meeting, you’ll know whom you really need to invite and whom you don’t.
5. Keep a Record of the Meeting
Regardless of what’s being discussed in your meeting, someone should always be taking notes. Not only can these be used for future reference, but they can be sent to attendees afterward to confirm action items. The notetaker him- or herself can act as a useful brake on side chatter because attendees will know their words are going on the record.
Speaking of being recorded, you could choose to go the technological route rather than assigning a human notetaker. There are several tools you can employ to record and transcribe your meetings for you. Such software can type up everything that’s said in a meeting in real time, while also recording the discussion. Some solutions can even differentiate between different speakers.
Once the conversation is finished, you can go into the transcript and make edits if there’s information you want to add or delete. Then you can share the edited meeting notes with your team.
Meetings shouldn’t be a waste of time — just the opposite, in fact. Your employees should walk away feeling like they gained something, which isn’t the case when meetings descend into unproductive small talk. To prevent that, you need to plan and run meetings mindfully. Luckily, by following these tips, you can keep your meetings on task and ensure they’re as productive as possible.