Meetings can easily become a dreaded workplace custom. Employees notice when regularly scheduled team updates or brainstorming sessions are not productive or efficient. When that happens, they can become reluctant to contribute or even attend. They may also begin to resent the disruption to their normal workflow.
That being said, meetings present a valuable opportunity that should not be wasted. They provide a dedicated time and place for collaborative brainstorming, idea sharing, and innovation.
Business leaders must make the most of every situation in which their teams are gathered together. The following are five simple tips leaders can use to ensure that team meetings are productive and worthwhile.
1. Prepare Your Team
If you’re calling a meeting, it’s likely that you have a good idea of the points you’d like to discuss and how you will convey them. However, your team members should also be familiar with the topics of each meeting before it begins.
You can begin by setting specific goals that you would like each meeting to accomplish. Use this information to draft a brief summary of what the meeting will be about and distribute this agenda to attendees a few days beforehand. This short overview might include some degree of prep work for attendees, such as questions to consider or research to conduct.
By providing employees with introductory information prior to the start of a meeting, team leaders can help employees prepare to make meaningful contributions to the conversation. Additionally, this can also help clear up any worry or confusion regarding the purpose of the upcoming meeting.
2. Stick to the Agenda
As stated above, the agenda is among the most important pre-meeting preparations. Create your agenda ahead of time and send it to your meeting attendees, granting them enough time to present their comments and questions.
Agendas are a critical component of making meetings actionable, as they allow team members to familiarize themselves with key concepts beforehand. However, agendas also help keep meetings on-track and guide participants to accomplish key objectives in a timely manner.
Don’t be afraid to prompt meeting participants to refocus on the topic at hand if you feel that things are straying off course. However, be sure to make time at a later date to follow-up on off-topic questions or ideas that warrant further discussion.
Assigning specific responsibilities to team members ahead of time is one of the best ways to encourage meeting participation. By giving individuals designated roles or discussion topics, you help ensure that attendees will show up well-prepared and ready to engage.
This practice has the potential to make employees feel more empowered. It can also serve as a valuable professional development opportunity.
4. Change it Up
If your regularly scheduled meetings have become dull, stagnant, or even yawn-inducing, consider a change of scenery. Departing from the tradition of gathering around the conference table can help inspire new energy and creativity in your team members.
For example, if you normally conduct each morning’s daily briefing while seated, consider having attendees stand in a circle. Doing so just might help keep people alert and encourage them to move through the process more efficiently. The occasional standing or walking meeting also offers a number of health benefits for workers who spend the majority of their days sitting down.
Choosing a meeting location that represents a break from the usual routine can help stimulate creative thinking and encourage open communication. For a quicker, more informal question-and-answer or brainstorming session, consider simply meeting around a coworker’s desk.
Alternatively, you might plan a lunch meeting, take a quick trip to a nearby coffee shop, or simply take a walk outside. No matter the venue you choose, unique meeting locations are a great way to encourage employee engagement and lessen some of the stress some may associate with more formal environments.
5. Trim it Down
You may be able to truncate your meetings by carefully considering which aspects are absolutely necessary to spur business growth. If your meetings generally begin with a round of personal or departmental updates that do not require significant discussion, consider distributing this information in an email prior to the meeting.
You might also attempt to simply reduce the amount of time spent in meetings. By using some of the above strategies to keep employees alert and engaged, you may find that you’re able to cover every meeting objective in half the time.
The notion of paring down your meetings applies not only to their duration, but to the guest lists as well. Consider which team members’ attendance is absolutely necessary and who would benefit more from a follow-up email summarizing any new developments. In addition to allowing your meetings to progress more efficiently, judicious use of the “invite” button will also demonstrate that you value your team members’ time.