Be honest – you may be physically present in those long work meetings, but how often do you lose concentration? From feeling pointless and going off topic, to overrunning times delaying the rest of your work day, office meetings can sometimes seem more hindrance than helpful. So whether you’re running the show, or want to boost your own productivity, here are nine ways to nail them…
Create An Agenda
Setting a clear objective for the meeting and sending attendees a set schedule in advance is a sure-fire way to ensure meetings stay on topic and finish on time. If you’re invited to a meeting, and haven’t been sent a schedule, it won’t hurt to send an email asking for one – it could be the start of a new way of doing things in your office.
As the old adage goes, meetings are full of people with nothing to say – until after the meeting. Take time beforehand to consider your thoughts, and be sure to write them down to prompt you. Keeping notes of any important information during the meeting is also key, never step into that room without a notepad and pen.
Craig Jarrow, aka the Time Management Ninja, has a golden rule for successful meetings: “If you are in the meeting, you are in the meeting.” This means if you’re in the room, you must participate – even if you’re introverted or shy about speaking up (if you are, here are some tips that could help).
Be Fully Present
“The greatest gift you can give another person is the value of your full presence,” explains Daniel Stane, Senior Consultant at The Potential Project, which provides programmes to boost effectiveness and focus. Being fully present isn’t only respectful to those around you, it can also help you get to the point more efficiently, cover your agenda quicker and be clearer on actions and decisions.
Smartphones, laptops and tablets are a no-go, as it’s all too tempting to check emails and surf the web. Take notes on paper, and encourage others to do so where possible.
Stick To The Clock
Once you have a schedule, stick to it. Allotting time to discuss each point and keeping an eye on the clock throughout the meeting will help you stay on track. Neal Hartman, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, suggests putting the agenda on a screen or whiteboard for the whole meeting to see, so people know how many points there are to get through and can discuss each one for a sensible length.
Stay On Topic
We’ve all been there, one colleague gets carried away on a tangent and soon the whole room is discussing something completely off topic. It’s important to set ground rules and switch back to the subject at hand – but keep in mind brainstorming in a team is great for creativity. If someone has a great off topic idea, thank them for their contribution, write it down and suggest discussing at a later date – either in a new meeting, or in a one-on-one.
Keep It Short
Studies have shown that 52 minutes is the ideal time to keep workers engaged before they need a break. Avoid scheduling meetings for over an hour, or, if necessary, factor in a 15-minute comfort break to keep the team focused. If you want to keep your meetings as short as possible, try standing up – aside from being great for your health, standing up during meetings could reduce their total time by 25%.
Follow Up Afterwards
Want to make sure everyone’s on the same page following the meeting? Email round a memo within 24 hours highlighting what was discussed and accomplished, documenting the tasks delegated and including any assigned deadlines