Everyone agrees that meetings are essential, but everyone also agrees that meetings can be a time-suck. It’s important to get people face to face to discuss pressing issues, projects, and plans, but sometimes people spend so much time in meetings that they can’t get their work done. It’s one thing to learn how to conduct a business meeting your employees won’t hate, but it’s just as important to hold a meeting that is both efficient and effective.
In a startup, where staff is limited and time is of the essence, it’s important to make meetings as efficient as possible. Here are 7 tips for ensuring that your meetings are worth their time.
Effective Meeting Strategies
1. Plan meeting agendas carefully
The most effect meeting strategies focus on careful planning and creating detailed agendas. It’s important that meetings use the valuable time of each participant efficiently. Not only employees, but if your meeting involves vendors or consultants, their time is billed by the hour, so it’s best to not waste any of it. The best way to make meetings efficient is to carefully plan a detailed agenda, and distribute it, in advance, to all attendees. Include details of who is attending and what is to be discussed, and stick to the agenda; but don’t hesitate to veer off a bit if something comes up that is tangentially related to the issues at hand. Sometimes, meetings uncover problems or issues that no one had planned to discuss.
2. Do you really need those weekly meetings?
Many startups find “trimming the fat” and cutting out any unnecessary meetings is one of the most effective meeting strategies to implement early on, because it forces attendees to communicate more in less time. Many teams hold weekly meetings, often on Monday morning, when people may be groggy and not quite prepared to do their best work. While this is a great thing to do for a small team in a startup, weekly project team meetings may be very inefficient. Not everyone will necessarily have anything to say, and you may go around the table with each person giving a status update similar to that of the previous week, in part because they haven’t had time to check in with others to see what has been accomplished. Think about how useful these weekly meetings are and either cut them back, or don’t include everyone on a team in each meeting, if their input isn’t needed.
3. Watch the clock
When it comes to implementing effective meeting strategies in the workplace, nothing is more counterproductive than wasting time. Set firm times to begin your meetings, and ensure that all attendees are at least five minutes early. That will give them a few minutes they need for small talk, which is essential for social bonding. But start on time, keep the meeting’s pace on track, and end on time. If you plan a one-hour meeting, end in one hour; don’t drag on. But if there are issues that need more time, plan for them separately; most likely, not all the meeting’s participants are needed to discuss all issues.
4. Hold stand-up meetings
Another useful strategy for ensuring meetings remain effective and efficient includes implementing stand-up meetings whenever appropriate. There are some meetings that are essential and that can take a lot of time, but for many meetings, it’s just a matter of checking in and keeping key team members up to date on projects. Consider holding shorter stand-up meetings. People are more likely to get to the point, and it gets them on their feet, which might be a good thing, as many people sit too much. However, some people may not be comfortable standing for a long time, so keep these meetings short. One downside is that it’s harder to take notes, so stand-up meetings are best for short updates rather than project planning.
5. Find the right time for meetings
One often overlooked yet highly effective strategy for keeping meetings efficient requires simply being aware of when during the day is the most appropriate time to hold a specific meeting. There are a number of factors that play a role in making this determination, but different meetings should be held at different times. Some short meetings are best in the morning, so people can take action on items discussed in the meeting during the day. And at that time, people are still buzzed on their morning caffeine, so they may be more talkative. One the other hand, having meetings after lunch may not be the best time. People become naturally lethargic as they digest their meals, and they may be less expansive and less inspired. Late in the day may not be very good either, as people are tired, especially if some of them have been traveling and are jet lagged. Check with your team and try to find the times that they prefer so everyone is at their best.
6. Have someone take notes and circulate minutes
This may seem obvious, but meeting minutes are important and ensuring someone is taking notes is a crucial element of the most effective meeting strategies. Important decisions are made at meetings, and it’s essential that everyone at the meeting – and their own teams – is on the same page. Instead of each person taking their own notes, which generally only concern their responsibility, have one person take detailed notes and circulate minutes. This ensures that no one has misinterpreted what was said at meetings, and that there is a record of which important action items were decided.
7. Ventilate the meeting room
It’s not something people often consider when thinking about strategizing how to keep meetings as effective and efficient as possible, but it should make sense that proper airflow can make a real difference. When people are in a closed meeting room, they need clean air. A study carried out at Harvard University shows that after two hours in a meeting room, CO2 levels are such that people’s cognitive abilities decline and their decision-making abilities are compromised. Make sure that there is good ventilation, and if possible, open windows. It can be interesting to install a small CO2 detector in meeting rooms and see how high it gets; above 1000 ppm, it’s time to get some air.
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