Make your business meetings more efficient than ever before – Here’s how you can do it!

Waking up before your alarm goes off, hustling around your house to get ready and reach the office, a bunch of files in hand, heading for business meetings have been a dreaded affair in organisations for ages. It is a routine that all successful professionals perform.

However, with passing years, managers and top-level executives have tried making business meetings more naturalistic and creative to increase the participants’ efficiency, and also help each employee develop personally, concerning their communication or public speaking skills. Creative endeavours like poolside meetings, informal dress codes followed by lunches or other engagement activities, skype or Webex meetings to make it more inclusive for distant/ overseas employees, etc. However, have they made business meetings more efficient?

There is a large amount of information available on the internet that reflects the amount of productivity, and well, it’s frightening. According to a source, 67% of the meetings in the US are considered unproductive, and 37% start late. Employees spend about 31 hours in unproductive meetings, where 70% of employees carry other work to meetings! Another source cites that an executive in the upper management spends about 50% of his time in business meetings! There are also interesting data which states that 39% of employees admitted dozing off during a session. This doesn’t look like a picture of productivity.

Here are a few suggestions for you to enhance employee effectiveness during a business meeting:

  • Call who you need: Make your business meetings exclusive. You have probably realised from experience, that employees hardly enjoy meetings. So do not ask for their presence if you don’t need it. This will not serve any purpose other than wasting their time and make them increasingly averse towards business meetings. Make an attendance list of people whom you need for the agenda. Including too many people also means unnecessarily extending the time and including more opinion which you don’t need, as well as which makes decision making late. Having many people will make the meeting longer. Everyone has, and it is tough to ignore people who are not paying attention. To avoid this chaos, it is best to call only the ones who are required and keep the rest glued to their daily responsibilities. Amazon has an interesting nickname for this- the two-pizza-rule! If you cannot feed the group with two pieces, you have included too many people. Google also follows a similar system of meetings.
  • Plan ahead: It would help if you were not discussing what the meeting should be about once you have started the meeting. You need to send emails at least a day before the meeting. You must already have a set of issues at hand. Prioritise from your list and decide on an agenda. Communicate your agenda clearly by mail or any other official procedure so your employees can prepare before the meeting, which in turn reduces wastage of time. An agenda includes much more than the topic. It also states the duration for the meeting, and divides the time into different tasks to be undertaken, like- brainstorming, reviewing, discussing, etc. Scheduling the meeting well in advance will make sure you have not forgotten any topics that you need to address and helps you prepare for any questions that may arise during the course of the meeting. Fixing an agenda and keeping minutes of the meeting prevents you and the other participants from going off track as well!
  • Storytelling: If you present your employees with a bunch of facts during a meeting, they are most likely to doze off or forget what you said the following moment. It is only in exceptional cases that we seem to remember facts and figures. On the other hand, you cannot scrap them from the meeting, because they portray an important picture of reality. However, you may present this data in the form of a story. Business stories are compelling and a creative approach being adopted by many. You may not remember an algebra formula which you had learnt in middle school but still, remember even the tiniest details from the bedtime stories you had read as a child. It is an effective device to remember information, as well as brings an element of fun and engagement to meetings. Stories enable a person to personalise the information, and hence the employees may even be motivated to take action for the agenda, making it a personal cause.
  • Physical settings: There is so much difference in having a meeting between four walls and having one outside in the open. Change is inevitable, while everything in the world is changing so swiftly, why not change a few office rules as well? The change needs to bring about positive energy and must increase the productivity of the organisation. A modern approach to business meetings is to have it at any other place than the office! Conservative organisations may not be convinced to such an idea, therefore carefully analyse your organisational values and culture before you take such a step. Arranging meetings at poolside, over lunch or a few drinks, or outside the country altogether, are a few alternative solutions. It helps break the monotony and makes it less formal, bringing ease in interactions. These kinds of meetings also help you refresh from the usual boring one, which leads to better and innovative ideas. Meetings with an impressive physical setting will also attract people to attend them more often. This is an advantage for you in two ways. One, it makes more people attend the meeting. Two, excited employees come up with new ideas, which will benefit the company.
  • Stand: How many times have people slept right in the middle of a meeting? I am sure that there are thousands of instances! Meetings can get boring after a point of time. The reason may be the duration of the meeting or the objective of the meeting itself. It’s not surprising if a person is staring at you and does not know if he is actually listening or is just vaguely thinking about something during a meeting. It is quite apparent to lose attention during a meeting that is long. Can this scenario be solved? An interesting conclusion drawn by psychologists shows that standing instead of sitting down during meetings is more productive because it keeps participants more focused and engaged. It prevents more interminable meetings because it doesn’t allow employees to settle comfortably. It combats drowsiness, and hence reduces meeting time by 34%. Also, it enables you to arrange for fun ice-breaking sessions, if its a meeting with recruits, since most ice-breaking activities require movement, etc. Again, this means that your meetings need to be crisp, to the point and short for others to stay attentive. It’s not right to make them stand and have a meeting for an hour.
  • Moderator: Often, business meetings lack a moderator, because the organiser or the manager gets involved in the discussion, and automatically neglects his tasks of moderating the meeting. The moderator should ensure that everyone is equally participative, encourage quieter participants to speak more, take minutes of the meetings, and direct actions to wrap it up within time. A moderator is also necessary to maintain composure should the arguments get too personal and attacking. A moderator is required to keep the meeting intact and to ensure it is going in the right direction. The purpose of the meeting should not be lost at the end of the conversation. This needs to be kept in check by the moderator. They need to make sure all participants participate actively in the meeting. They need to see that everyone is putting their opinion out there without hesitation for the meeting to be productive and efficient.

Meetings can be colourless at most times. However, conducting meetings is very important, for, that is when all ideas and thoughts get discussed. It is the place where all members come together and put their ideas forward in one place. Meetings are essential for the growth and development of the organisation. They give a clear picture of the position of the company to the employees and the employer. Meetings are the place to pitch in new ideas and to abandon the ones that do not work. It is the time to think of the achieved progress and to plan for the next one. The reason that most people do not like to attend meetings is because of the time frame or because the session is too dull for an individual. To make this better, you need to inherit the points mentioned above while conducting your meeting to make it impressive. You must learn to hold meetings in a way that participants lose track of time. It needs to be interactive and full of enthusiasm. All efforts need to be to catch people’s attention in the first 10 minutes of the meeting. This is your opportunity of creating an impression. The audience once drawn to you will rarely lose focus during the entire course of the meeting.

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