7 Hacks for Effective Meetings

“Your Life is time! How you spend your time is how you live your life”

Let’s apply the essence of this popular quote to our work lives; what does it look like? It looks a whole lot of meetings doesn’t it? Statistics say that in the US alone, companies see about 11 million meetings per day, with an average of 1 hour spent per meeting involving 5 or fewer people (Source: Lucid Meetings). For middle management, time spent on meetings is about 35% of their time, and for upper management, it’s a whopping 50% (Source: The Muse).

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You’d expect that all this time spent should amount to something significant for you and for the organization. Sadly, 71% of employees feel that meetings are unproductive and executives feel that over 67% of meetings are failures (Source: The Muse). Doing away with meetings is not the solution. We just need to find ways to make meetings more effective. That’s our aim with this blog; 7 hacks to make meetings more effective.

Set clear objectives and expectations

Most meetings end up going nowhere as the people involved don’t know why they are there or what they are supposed to accomplish. Meetings are all about group dynamics. The group needs an owner/moderator (driver), defined outcomes (destination) and a clear agenda (the route). It is important for the meeting owner to set the expectations up front and drive the agenda to achieve desired outcomes. We recommend creating and circulating a meeting agenda template that captures objectives, agenda and preparation needed.

Invite relevant audience

“Too many cooks spoil the broth”. Very relevant for meetings as well! The crucial ingredient to meaningful meetings is context. It is very important for the people in the meeting to have some context of the topic of discussion so that they can contribute towards the outcome. When you include people who don’t have any background you might lose valuable time bringing them up to speed. On the other hand, there is also the risk of leaving important people out of the meeting. The onus lies on the meeting owner to ensure all the relevant stakeholders are identified and invited.

Be pragmatic about the agenda

Meeting owners often get very adventurous about the meeting agenda with a tendency to pack in a lot in a stipulated time. It is important for the owner to have a complete understanding of the objectives, the group dynamics and complexities involved. The agenda is pretty much the cornerstone of a good meeting and therefore needs be carefully thought through and made realistic. If the objectives are complex it might make sense to split the meeting into a few sessions, each with a specific agenda.

Choose the right format for the objective

Different objectives will need different formats. Ideating needs brainstorming, leaders prefer a review format, customers typically need a status update and potential customers will look for sales pitches. That’s just to name a few. It’s the objective that will define the format. Meeting owners need to be smart about choosing the right format to drive desired outcomes.

Keep the distractions out

According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds. Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds (Source: Telegraph). You can imagine what happen when smartphones come into the conference room. Meeting participants are often seen glancing through their phones during meetings and that’s never a good sign. Companies like Facebook, Google and LinkedIn are taking a stand against distraction by banning smartphones in conference rooms. Setting clear rules about distractions will make meetings more productive and effective.

Create a culture of discipline

Productivity is as much about culture as it is about the process. When it comes to meetings, discipline is the number issue. People are sloppy with responding to meeting requests, some accept but don’t show up and some accept and show up late. With global teams in the mix, this becomes a huge productivity killer. People need to respect other’s time and understand the importance of meeting outcomes. There can be no good excuse for indiscipline and culture has an important role to play. Meeting owners need to moderate meetings to ensure that objectives are met in the scheduled time and everyone involved contributes to it.

Capture and communicate information

With a safe assumption that people spend half their workdays in meetings, you can imagine the amount of valuable information being generated. One of the most reported problems in organizations is the lack of rigor on capturing and communicating meeting notes. With online conferencing, digital whiteboards and video calling, the avenues for capturing information have multiplied significantly. However, without discipline, technology enablers don’t help much. Companies like Amazon have been very successful in building a high productivity culture and have well-laid principles around conducting meetings and disseminating captured information.

Meetings are an integral part of work and are crucial to achieving business outcomes. Organizations need to play their part in driving a culture that thrives on discipline and productivity. Employees need to acknowledge the importance of meetings and work towards making them productive and meaningful.

By Nikhil Daddikar, Co-Founder, Celoxis Technologies

Nikhil Daddikar - Co-Founder, Celoxis Technologies

About Celoxis: Celoxis is world’s leading online PPM software, rated among 3 best project management software tools in the world and is deployed by more than 2000+ customers globally, from mid-sized enterprises to Fortune 100 companies, across industry verticals. To know more visit www.celoxis.com.

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