5 Rules That'll Make Your Meetings More Effective

November 9, 2016

People spend a crazy amount of times in work meetings. These rules will make them more productive.

If you want to make your organization more productive, there’s no better place to start than your meetings.

Research shows the average professional attends 62 meetings a month. And, as employees are promoted and gain more influence, they tend to spend even more time in meetings, with meetings occupying the majority of CEOs’ time.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as meetings are where collaboration happens and strategies are hammered out. What’s troubling though is that employees believe 50 percent of their time spent in meetings is wasted, and executives consider 67 percent of meetings to be failures.

That means a lot of your employees are losing a lot of time in unproductive meetings. But the solution isn’t to abandon meetings; instead, it just means making the meetings you have more productive.

Dave Crenshaw, a business coach and president of Invaluable Inc, has a solution. In a course on LinkedIn Learning on how to get the most out of meetings, Crenshaw touched upon five rules all your employees should follow for every work meeting, which will make them more effective and productive.

1. Before each meeting, the meeting organizer should ask themself these four questions.

Before setting any meeting, Crenshaw suggests the meeting organizer ask themself these four questions to understand both if a meeting is necessary and who needs to attend:

  • Do we have all the information we need for a meeting? If not, get the needed information first, and then set the meeting.
  • In the meeting, are we going to discuss and collaborate or are we just going to delegate and calendar? The point here is if tasks are just going to be delegated, that can be done by the leader in one-on-one meetings or emails. Meetings should be about collaborating and discussion.
  • Is it critical for everyone to be on the same page? In other words, does everyone going to the meeting need to know all the information presented? If the answer is no, it’s better to have smaller, shorter conversations with the relevant parties.
  • Is this meeting one of our most valuable activities? As in, is this meeting going to have a real impact on the bottom line? If not, you can probably skip the meeting.

2. Every meeting shall have an agenda.

Every meeting within your company should have an agenda that’s sent out 24 hours before the meeting starts, as it is essential for keeping meetings focused and productive, Crenshaw said. Additionally, it allows for participants to prepare as well, even participants who aren’t presenting at the meeting.

An additional benefit here of having an agenda – it helps introverts. Indiana University Senior Lecturer Brenda Bailey-Hughes, in a course on business communications, explained that introverts prefer having an agenda ahead of time, so they can have solitary processing time to brainstorm their questions and thoughts.

Otherwise, if a meeting doesn’t have an agenda, there’s a good chance a few extroverts will dominate the conversation. So, agendas not only increase the focus of meetings, but also should facilitate a broader team discussion.

3. Meeting attendees shall prepare for the meeting as well.

It isn’t enough for just the organizer of the meeting to come prepared, as that’s going to result in the organizer dominating the conversation. If the meeting organizer sends out an agenda and materials a day before – as they should – it falls onto the shoulders of the participants to be fully prepared as well.

“Prior to attending the meeting every participant should take a few moments to prepare their questions and consider how they can serve others,” Crenshaw said in his course.

That means each attendee reading the supporting documentation before the meeting, making a checklist of pertinent questions/topics they have and having their calendar handy, so they can schedule follow-up meetings or deadlines, if necessary, Crenshaw said.

4. It’s the meeting leader’s job to keep people focused throughout the meeting.

The Muse reports that 92 percent of employees admit to multitasking during meetings, primarily checking email. That directly affects the focus of any meeting, Crenshaw said.

Laptops and smart phones should only be used during to meeting when necessary, like for scheduling or for note taking, Crenshaw said. If people are using them to check email, the meeting leader should point that out, he said.

Additionally, if people begin to get off topic or hold back during a meeting, it’s the meeting leader’s job to fix that. Crenshaw recommends the leader doing that by avoiding signaling out any one person, but instead addressing the group with something like, “We all agreed to be candid”, if someone appears to be holding back an opinion. Or, if someone talks over someone else, the organizer should say something along the lines of, “We all agreed to let people talk.”

5. A list of action items shall be set during each meeting – and actually be completed.

Most meetings should have action items coming out of them, as that is often an indication the meeting was truly productive. Of course, just setting action items isn’t enough; people should be accountable to follow through them.

“Part of the success of future meetings will depend upon your success in completing your action items,” Crenshaw said. “This means if you can come to every meeting and show the other participants that you keep your commitments and meet your deadlines, then you’ll earn their trust.”

Tying it all together

Crenshaw’s rules are simple, yet effective. They ensure your employees only hold meetings when necessary, that meetings are as focused and collaborative as possible and that everyone comes through on their promises that come out of those meetings.

Following these five rules ensure that happens in all your meetings at your organization. And that will lead to far more productive workforce.

Having productive meetings is one way to make your company more productive. Another is creating a culture of learning, where each employee is committed to constant improvement.