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How to Make Your Work Meetings More Efficient

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When was the last time you attended an efficient meeting? The right people were present. The topic was clear, and discussions were based on the agenda items sent to you in advance of the meeting. Action items with due dates and responsibilities were created during the meeting and then immediately distributed to the attendees. And as you left the meeting, which only lasted 30 minutes, you said to yourself, “Wow, that was a great meeting and we got so much accomplished!”

For most people, the sad truth is that this doesn’t happen very often. Meetings are called to ‘solve problems’ or ‘make decisions’ but, unfortunately, this is often the last thing they actually do. If anything, they can create more problems by delaying decisions and wasting everyone’s time. Instead of doing something worthwhile, they were sitting around a table wondering when the meeting would be over.

Remember the movie Ground Hog Day with Bill Murray when he was stuck repeating the same day over and over? In essence, that’s how corporate meetings play out in boardrooms across the country, except that no one’s learning from them and there’s no Hollywood happy ending in sight.

Top contributing factors to inefficient meetings:

So, what are the biggest contributing factors to meeting ineffectiveness? Janine Popick, author of the article “Don’t Let Meetings Suck your Time,” says there are six things that make for terrible meetings:

  1. Meetings allow people to delay decisions
  2. Most people who are in meetings don’t need to be there
  3. People call meetings because they’re afraid to make a decision
  4. Many people who call a meeting don’t have a clear agenda or objective
  5. People call 30-minute meetings for things that can be decided in five minutes
  6. Most meetings cost too much by wasting people’s time

I agree with these six factors because I’ve experienced all of them at one time or another when I worked for a large corporation. And I see it with some of my own clients.

I don’t want to suggest all meetings are bad. They just need to be re-purposed and employees taught the fundamentals of creating more effective meetings. The great news is that you can start running an effective and efficient meeting immediately.

If you’re a meeting organizer, make a pact with yourself that you’ll eliminate these six contributing factors from your meetings immediately. If you do this, someone at your next meeting might say, “Wow, that was a great meeting and we got so much accomplished!”

How do you make sure your meetings go smoothly? Share with us in the comments!


#Business Skills #Tips #Meetings Career Advice
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Carly Heitlinger
Carly Heitlinger

Another tip is to come together as a team and agree to schedule meetings only during a designated time and block off chunks of uninterrupted time during your day for non-meeting tasks. For example, maybe all meetings take place between 2pm and 5pm and everything before 2 and after 5 is blocked off for actual work.

Cynthia Bell
Cynthia Bell

Having an agenda is key to having a successful, on-task meeting. Circulate the agenda so that people know what is going to be discussed beforehand. I also have discovered that someone definitely needs to lead the meeting and keep everything running on time. Just getting a bunch of people together and hoping for the best is usually a recipe for disaster.

Good point about circulating the agenda. Definitely helps people stay on topic.

I always find that establishing next steps and who is doing what coming out of a meeting makes everyone feel better about the time they spent in the meeting. If there aren't next steps than I question why we had the meeting...

Establishing a crisp and clear synthesis of the purpose of the meeting and defining what success looks like helps keep everyone focused and helps the team establish a barometer for whether the meeting is moving the needle.

Adriana Girdler
Adriana Girdler

Wow...thank you so much for taking the time and reading my blog. I am very grateful and appreciative. Love the tips and agree with them. The backbone to meeting efficiency is being disciplined and consistent in execution...especially when we are busy.

Carly, blocking off set meeting times is a fantastic idea. More companies need to establish this as a policy, therefore, allowing people to actually get work done at work.

Cynthia and Tracey, great points raised regarding circulating the agenda beforehand. I would also add that that each agenda items has a time limit to ensure people are kept on track.

Amanda, capturing tasks and doing a “quick” recap is a great way to ensure everyone clearly understands their responsibility. Lack of understanding regarding responsibility and actions is one of the reasons meetings are inefficient.

Caroline, you are bang on! Having a defined purpose for the meeting ensures that everyone’s time is not being wasted.

Nina Parker
Nina Parker

There are different tools that can help you manage your meetings effectively. I use an app that helps me write meeting minutes, setup meeting agendas, manage action items, take attendance etc. I use this one but there are a lot of great apps to pick from.

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