If not properly steered, meetings can be notoriously unproductive and a big waste of time in office culture. We’ve all been there; where one person speaks up and derails the meeting, or where people aren’t quite sure why they’re there and leave the meeting still unsure of what the meeting was about. So, how do you avoid unnecessary and inefficiently run meetings? How do you ensure that all your meetings are productive? Here are some tips to help you out.
- ENSURE THAT THE MEETING IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY
It is important to figure out if the meeting is even necessary in the first place. Some things by their very nature, are not a good use of group time. If items are sensitive or require significant back and forth or clarification, then these can be a great use of meeting time.
- DECIDE WHO WILL BE PRESENT DURING THE MEETING
When scheduling a meeting keep in mind that it will take up people’s time. It is a common misconception that if you schedule say, a one-hour meeting with four people and this meeting ends up being unproductive then you have only lost one hour. This is in fact not the case because, four individual people lost an hour of work time which adds up to four hours of lost time.
With this in mind, it is therefore much easier to decide who needs to be present for the meeting to minimise time wasting and maximise productivity.
- HAVE AN AGENDA
Set expectations with meeting attendees and have a clear objective for the meeting. It is important to think about what the purpose of the meeting is. Is the meeting a brainstorming session? Do you need to communicate specific information? Or do you want to make an important decision?
After establishing the purpose of the meeting, ensure that you communicate this agenda to those who will take part in the meeting. This will ensure that even before the meeting begins everyone will know exactly why they’re there and how they should prepare.
- ESTABLISH SOME GROUND RULES
Setting ground rules is an integral part of ensuring successful meetings because they establish a safe and productive environment. Ground rules detail the code of conduct for a meeting and the team, explaining the behaviour that’s expected of all participants. Have rules to regulate when meetings begin and end, how participants should handle their responsibilities in the meeting and how they should treat each other e.g. being respectful of each other’s opinions etc.
- ACTIVELY MANAGE THE MEETING
Even after going through the process of setting out an agenda for the meeting, you still have to actively manage the meeting to ensure that you stay on track. A lot of times people will unintentionally go on tangents and veer off topic. Try to steer the meeting back to the main agenda to avoid wasting time.
Actively managing a meeting also means that you are getting equal representation and input from all the participants. If you notice that some participants are speaking more than others and dominating the discussion, make a point of calling out those who are more quiet and encourage them to share their input. If a usually quiet person speaks, show your appreciation. Try to draw everyone in and not just let the usual suspects speak.
- SUMMARISE AND AGREE ON THE NEXT STEPS
During the meeting, agree on the next course of action and then document this. Take note of the tasks assigned to specific people. After the meeting send out a brief summary of the meeting and what was agreed upon. This will promote accountability and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Doing this also makes the meeting time more actionable and productive. 
Meetings are an effective way to bounce ideas around and increase productivity in your organisation. They also help boost team spirit and encourage active participation. It is therefore important to ensure that you do your best to make them as efficient and productive as possible. Apply these simple tips and start having more effective group meetings.
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