Meetings are a necessary evil in the world of business.
These business gatherings give teams a chance to sit down face-to-face, talk about current and upcoming projects, go over goals and establish a plan for future growth.
But not all meetings are effective.
In fact, 59% of employees cite a loss of engagement throughout the workday as a result of too many meetings, and it is estimated that in the U.S. alone, companies lose more than $37 billion from time spent in unproductive meetings. These stats highlight the need for a dramatic shift in how businesses conduct meetings, and how they ensure all attendees get the most out of their experience.
Additionally, 51% of employees that are invited to meetings that are of little-to-no relevance to them, which can dramatically cut into valuable time and cost businesses real money.
Companies need to do a better job at making their meetings more productive, effective and actionable.
What is an Effective Meeting?
In short, an effective meeting is one that has a clear goal. It results in everyone leaving the table (or Zoom call) with actionable insight.
An effective meeting doesn’t waste time trying to get to the point. It may also require participants to come prepared, having read documents or contributed to the agenda before meeting. An effective meeting is structured, clear and productive.
Unfortunately, most of the meetings employees attend aren’t a valuable experience. But that’s something that can change if teams take a closer look at how their company uses meetings and what they really want to get out of them.
How to Run an Effective Meeting
1. Set an Agenda
The first thing the meeting organizer should do is set an agenda. This agenda must give all attendees an idea of what to expect, making it easier for everyone to come to the table prepared to participate.
An agenda must also provide a foundation and schedule for the meeting, meaning that attendees can express their ideas and discuss topics more quickly because there is a set schedule in place. The agenda may also include materials that need to be read in advance so participants can contribute to the meeting.
No need to send the materials one by one to every attendee. If your company is a Digital Asset Management user, then it probably has a single source of truth for its assets, where its employees will find all the sources needed for the meeting. Having all the materials organized and easily accessible is also good for the team to have the reference after the meeting finished.
In short, agendas are key. Business and productivity expert Tim Ferris, who also authored the 4-Hour Working Week, agrees:
“I don’t agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time. If the desired outcome is defined clearly with a stated objective and agenda listing topics or questions to cover, no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes. Request them [meetings] in advance so you can best prepare and make good use of the time together.”
2. Take the Time to Invite the Right Employees
There are few things as frustrating as getting a meeting invite and feeling obligated to attend – even when the topic of the discussion is unrelated to your role.
But time and time again, employees get invited to meetings that are totally irrelevant to them. And worse – they attend.
Employees might think this is their duty, but it’s not. Repeatedly attending unhelpful meetings kills employee motivation and wastes time.
Therefore, meeting organizers need to set up a strict criteria for evaluating who needs to be in a meeting and who doesn’t. This involves more communication on the part of the organizer, reaching out to suggested attendees and learning more about what they can contribute to a given meeting.
Meeting organizers should keep these things in mind when inviting attendees:
- Are these people decision-makers?
- Will they provide value?
- Will they move the project forward or stall it?
- Will these individuals foster collaboration?
Finally, when in doubt, keep the meeting invite list small. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos employs an odd but effective meeting strategy. His best meeting rule – don't plan a meeting in which two pizzas aren't enough to feed everyone. Keeping meetings small, no larger than 20ish people helps keep the meeting focused and not too expensive. Any actual ordering of pizza for meeting participants might improve attendance and morale.
3. Find the Perfect Meeting Time
On average, employees attend 62 meetings a month. That breaks down to nearly one-third of the work week in meetings.
With so many meetings already dominating employee’s calendars, it can be difficult to find the right time to host a meeting that works within everyone’s schedules.
In order to ensure the meeting is a success, check that everyone can put their full focus into a meeting. This requires meeting organizers to look at all attendees' schedules and find a time that works for them.
A great way to facilitate this is to use a group calendar shared amongst team members. This way, the meeting organizer can see what tasks are coming up and when employees will be in meetings.
To ensure that no one is late, and everyone can put their full energy into a meeting, using a shared calendar and reaching out one-on-one are great ways to keep everyone fresh and motivated.
The time of day the meeting is held can also impact productivity. Contrary to popular belief, Monday mornings are not the best time to hold an important meeting. Often workers come in with a lot of energy and enthusiasm on Monday and scheduling a meeting then can take away a very productive time. Additionally, when meetings are in the morning, it means that people either don't prepare for them, or spend too much time the day before prepping.
While the morning may not be great, too late in the afternoon is also not ideal. By late afternoon the team may be worn or already thinking about what they will do after work, which could prevent them from participating to the fullest.
For these reasons and others, research has found that the best time for a meeting may be 2:30 pm on a Tuesday. After analyzing data from more than two million responses, a UK company found that attendance and engagement was better in the mid-afternoon than any other time. While you may not be able to schedule all meetings during this window, reserve this time for the most important meetings like company wide updates or strategy sessions.
4. Keep Deadlines Strict
In order for a meeting to be effective and productive, time can’t be lost due to over-analyzing topics or getting sidetracked with discussions that aren’t relevant.
Of course, this experience should be organic and open. But there needs to be strict deadlines in place so that the meeting itself doesn’t run too long, taking up more unnecessary time from everyone’s day.
69% of employees say that distractions in meetings — like attendees going off topic — impact their experience and interrupt the flow of discussion. This leads to less engagement.
Therefore, meeting organizers should keep a running time limit for each topic. This should be outlined in the agenda so everyone knows how long they can talk without going over the limit. Often, assigning a speaker for each topic will also help facilitate discussion. The speaker can present their topics and ask for specific feedback or updates which will prevent meandering discussions.
Tools like Team Meeting Timer are great for this. It ensures that less time is wasted during meetings and provides a structure that fosters productivity.
5. Make the Objectives Clear
Another reason meetings end up being unproductive is because no one really knows what the goals and objectives are.
Employees need to be clear about meeting goals. This helps to give the meeting clarity, ensuring all attendees come prepared and ready to reach a mutual decision effectively and efficiently.
A lack of clear goals is the number one reason for project failure, after all. Even meetings need clear goals if they’re expected to succeed.
To ensure clarity, organizers should lay out the goals and objectives of the meeting right in the meeting invite. Similarly, at the start of the meeting, the presenter should reiterate these goals, so everyone involved understands the motivations and what this is driving toward. At the end of a meeting, recap the goals and discuss whether or not the meeting offered actionable insights on how to achieve them.
A helpful tool to keep meetings effective and objectives clear is Less Meetings. This tool allows meeting organizers to control meeting topics by visualizing the agenda for all to see. So, everyone is on the same page at all times.
6. Designate a Dedicated Note-Taker
The best way to ensure everyone remembers what occurred during a meeting is to have notes to look back on. But it can be difficult to take notes, stay engaged and contribute all at the same time.
And not everyone takes notes the same way.
So, it’s important that there’s someone sitting in that can spend their time recounting everything said, done and brainstormed throughout the meeting.
This way, at the end of the meeting, you can gather all of these notes in one place and send them out to all attendees. This leaves them with a communal document to look back on, giving them more concrete information to move forward.
Use platforms like Evernote to record what occurred during the meeting and send these out to attendees post-meeting for maximum efficiency and productivity.
7. Encourage Open Dialogue so that Everyone Can Contribute
A lack of contribution is a major meeting killer. There’s nothing worse than going to a meeting and only hearing one or two people talking. But at the same time, it’s not fun to be invited to a meeting that you don’t belong in – so you really can’t contribute.
An effective meeting should get everyone involved. All attendees should have a purpose and should play a role while in the meeting.
They should have something to add, something to ask or something to pose to the group that helps to further the discussion. If meetings are being dominated by one or two people, they aren’t very effective.
Meetings are for the sharing of ideas. Therefore, there needs to be more than one or two ideas on the table for them to be successful.
To encourage more collaboration, meeting organizers should require everyone in attendance to speak. Everyone should have something to present, counter or weigh in on during the discussion.
This could be a formal process or an informal one — every attendee can make a formal presentation themselves, or they can be informally called upon and asked questions by the presenter to open communication.
8. Make Sure All Attendees Leave Knowing What to do Next
To make the most of the time in and out of meetings, it’s vital that the meeting ends with action items for participants.
Organizers and managers need to outline everything discussed during the meeting and talk through it briefly with attendees. This should put them on a path of action.
Additionally, a post-meeting email should be sent out to each specific attendee that details what their next steps are and ensure everyone is on the same page.
9. Ask for Feedback Post-Meeting
The best way to learn what works and what doesn’t is by asking the attendees themselves. At the end of a meeting, send out a follow-up email asking employees for feedback.
One way to do this is through an anonymous portal or survey. And this might even make attendees feel more comfortable providing honest feedback that you can learn and grow from.
Meeting organizers can also use tools like Culture Amp that facilitate simple and actionable feedback to develop business strategies going forward.
It’s important that you do what’s best for your team – even if that means getting rid of meetings entirely.
SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk agrees, stating:
"Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you're certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short."
If your team doesn’t want meetings, try getting rid of them for a time and look toward other solutions to improve productivity.
10. Consider the Tools You Use
Running an effective meeting remotely can come with some tech related challenges that you wouldn’t see if everyone was in the room together.
Is someone muted and doesn’t know it when trying to talk? Can everyone see the presentation while it’s being given? Are cybersecurity protocols being followed by all in attendance?
To answer these questions, here are some tips and tools to consider ensuring a smoothly run remote meeting:
- Consider whether the meeting should use videoconferencing or a traditional conference call with presentation slides. You can think of it as whether you are giving a one-way presentation or if the meeting is a two-way dialogue. If the meeting is meant to be collaborative, then using videoconferencing software like Zoom is the way to go.
- Proprietary business practices and sensitive data may be displayed and discussed during a remote meeting which has the potential to end up in the wrong person’s hands if security protocols aren’t followed. Use the meeting invite to remind all invitees that using a VPN while connecting from a remote location is mandatory.
How to Maximize Efficiency, Streamline Productivity and Boost Workflow with Effective Meetings
Meetings can be time-consuming. They can be long and grueling and soul-sucking, but they don’t have to be – not if leaders learn how to use meetings to their full potential.
Meetings don’t exist to give employees time to zone out, nor do they exist to waste time during the day. Meetings have goals and objectives just like any other business initiative.
In fact, meetings can also be very powerful for a business. Bringing people together can create more teamwork, energize a team, and provide a space to create shared goals and vision. Often, meetings are the fastest way to resolve an issue or gather insights. Meetings can also be a place where employees feel like they are heard and can create change in their organization.
Effective meetings drive innovation, collaboration, and creativity. They maximize employee productivity and motivate them to work harder, try new things and grow the brand as a whole.
But, running a successful meeting is harder than it seems. It’s not as easy as finding an empty room and gathering everyone together to read through PowerPoint presentations. Meetings easily get off track and can have too much participation or too little.
Fortunately, a few small steps can set you up for meeting success:
- Setting an agenda and creating time limits will help keep participants on track.
- Inviting only the right people and assigning homework beforehand will help them be ready to contribute.
- Encouraging open dialogue will create a better environment where the team can problem-solve and identify next steps.
- Finally, every organization should take time to reflect by asking for feedback and investigating how much time is spent in meetings. Reviewing how meetings are conducted, you may find even more ideas to make them more engaging.
Several tools exist that can help run and manage better meetings. By following the tips laid out in this guide, you can be sure that the next meeting you set up will end with everyone energized and ready to tackle their next project with enthusiasm.
And Pics.io DAM can help you with at least one thing to be well-prepared for your meetings – getting organized with files and materials. Advanced Digital Asset Management will be a great addition to your toolset, creating a single source of truth for your assets, helping you manage and distribute files.