5 Tips to Make Your Meetings More Productive

Have you ever thought about how your employees would react if you announced the monthly company meeting was canceled?

"Would there be groups of people clamoring at your door saying, 'We want to have a meeting!'?" says Glenn Parker, business meeting consultant and expert. "Or would there be a loud roar through the office in which people went, 'Yay, we're not meeting today!'"

Meetings are a valuable tool to getting things done. But without proper planning and attention, they can also become a tremendous waste of time. Parker, author of the bestselling book Meeting Excellence: 33 Tools to Lead Meetings That Get Results, offers several tips to help make your meetings as productive as they can be:

1. Have a clear purpose

If you take the time to gather your leadership team or your entire staff of employees for a meeting, you should have a goal in mind for why you're doing it. What do you want to accomplish? What important information will you give your people that they need in order to effectively do their jobs?

An easy step toward ensuring meetings are more purposeful is to require an action agenda that lists the specific things you hope to accomplish. List the topic, the action that needs to be taken in relation to that topic, the person who is responsible for the action and how long you want to discuss it.

"Staying on track implies that you have a track," Parker says. "That track is the agenda and that track is the purpose. You have to have that."

2. Start meetings on time

Parker recalls a company he was working with where it had become the norm to begin the 2 p.m. meeting late. It was so ingrained in people that no one showed up at 2 p.m.

"They said, 'What's the sense?'" Parker says. "'Why should I just sit around the room and wait?' What we found out is that people didn't want to show up late. They wanted the meetings to start on time and end on time. They just got tired of waiting."

If you schedule a meeting to begin at a certain time, make sure it begins at that time. Make sure you have any PowerPoint presentations ready to go when the meeting begins so you're not scrambling to make it work after everyone has arrived.

3. Put important items at the top

Don't draw up the agenda for your meeting as if you're a movie screenwriter. Do it as a CEO who understands time is money and the most important piece of business should be covered first.

"You're not building to a crescendo," Parker says. "You start out with the most important thing. It ensures the one thing you have said is critical to having a meeting today will get done because it's going to come first." Parker says people also tend to be more alert and attentive at the beginning of a meeting than they are in the middle or end.

4. Close the meeting

When you reach the end of the agenda, go over what was accomplished in the meeting and make sure people who have tasks understand what is expected. "You want people to start work on those decisions as soon as possible," Parker says. "You want to be assured that they agreed to do that." You should also take time to thank people who made a positive contribution to the meeting.

5. Ask for feedback

It's always a good idea to ask around to see what people think of your meetings. If you're ready to go at the top of every meeting but you notice people not listening or who engage in private conversations during your meetings, that's a problem.

"Ask people what can be done to improve the meeting," Parker says. "What do they like about the meeting? What are some things that could be changed or eliminated or added to the meeting?"


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