Shake It Up: How To Make Meetings More Productive

Victoria Murphy
Shake It Up: How To Make Meetings More Productive

A Harvard Business Review report on one large company in the US found that it spent around 300,000 man hours per year just on weekly executive committee meetings. Sound familiar? This worrying stat didn’t even include the ripple effect from those meetings: hours of prep, travel time, discussion and digestion, leaving serious scope to cut wastage and get better results. Here’s how you can shake your meetings up…

See the bigger picture

Estimates suggest that excess bureaucracy costs OECD countries a combined $9 trillion each year. Reducing this total is all about identifying waste. Meetings shouldn’t just be formalities or approval processes, they need to move your team toward specific goals. If they don’t, cancel them. If they do, make sure to set a clear agenda (and share it) ahead of the meeting to focus your team on reaching the desired end goal.

Break down hierarchies

CIPD research suggests that rigid hierarchies can stifle individual growth. It can prevent innovation, too, says Forbes commentator Liz Ryan.

Avoid suppressing ideas by encouraging junior staff to speak freely or first in meetings. You could also shuffle the hierarchy entirely by inviting experts from other departments for a fresh perspective that forces other attendees to rethink the format.

Map out your meeting

According to one study, 63% of meetings don’t have an agenda. What’s more, of those that do have an agenda, many are not using them to their full potential. HBR found that even simple ‘agenda whiteboards’ have a powerful impact. Using these to outline topics for discussion, desired outcomes and the time to be spent discussing them caused meeting dissatisfaction to fall from 44% to 16%. 

Agenda outlines are crucial, along with supporting and structural information. Experiment with new ways to guide meetings and support participants for maximum effect.

Get smart

40% of employees waste up to 30 minutes per day looking for a meeting space according to a Steelcase survey. Electronic assistants like Hangouts Chat’s @meet bot or x.ai can cut this down by scheduling meetings for you.

You can also reduce the space you need (and employee travel times) by catering for virtual attendance. With presentations increasingly available in VR and AR, your team can be immersed in the meeting at their desk, home or favourite cafe.

Deliver results

Finally, every meeting should end with practical outcomes, collated as real resources. Failure to share knowledge effectively costs Fortune 500 companies $31.5bn per year. Using intranets and tools like Slack, Dropbox and Google Drive will ensure everyone can access outcomes and work towards their action points.

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