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5 Ways to Build a Better Meeting

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We've all had our time wasted attending or even running a meeting at work. So often, we walk out of a conference room wondering, "What the heck just happened in there? How did everything spiral out of control so fast and furiously?" The next time you're planning a meeting, think about these five tips for making your meetings work better, stronger, and most of all, more efficiently than ever before.

We’ve all had our time wasted attending or even running a meeting at work. So often, we walk out of a conference room wondering, “What the heck just happened in there? How did everything spiral out of control so fast and furiously?” The next time you’re planning a meeting, think about these five tips for making your meetings work better, stronger, and most of all, more efficiently than ever before.

boring meeting

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Velasquez/Unsplash)

1. Keep things short and exclusive

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You’ve ever heard the expression “too many cooks spoil the broth”; it’s as true as ever when it comes to business meetings. If you fill a room with 20 caffeine-addled entrepreneurs, you’re never going to get anything decided. Fill a table with five to six collaborators, however, and you can easily share ideas, get input from the whole group, and have a chance to even get some brainstorming done. A room overflowing with people only leads to increased feelings that time was wasted on yet another unnecessary meeting.

The same idea goes for meeting lengths. Anyone who’s ever had an invite come in that asks to block out the whole afternoon knows the feeling of dread that originates deep down in the pits of bodily despair. Lifehacker poses the idea that the ideal meeting length might just be a nearly unheard-of 15 minutes. This, they think, is the best amount of time for daily, churn-and-burn-style gatherings, and there might be something to that. Our attention spans are, if anything, getting shorter all the time. Soon we won’t even get to the end of sentences.

2. Create focus by removing electronic distractions

If you’ve ever labored over a presentation, then looked around your conference room to a sea of heads buried in their laptops while you speak, you know the frustration that is the modern workplace. If your meeting is going to be efficient, you’re going to want the full attention of everyone you’ve invited – after all, if they’re invited, they should be vital to the discussion at hand.

Imposing a “no-distractions” policy means that laptops should be closed (or absent) as well as tablets and phones. Yes, yes, we “take notes” on our computers. But good ol’ pen and paper never hurt anyone, and if you are truly conducting an effective meeting, a few notes on a pad and you should all be back to your workstations in a flash.

3. Draft an agenda

The Harvard Business Review has some helpful tips for creating your next meeting agenda. From seeking input from team members, to figuring out (in advance) the purpose of the meeting (seeking input, sharing information, making a decision), it’s important to plan before you all sit down together. Knowing all the points to be discussed or decided in advance will save time, and set appropriate expectations.

4. Time it all to the minute

I’ve worked at companies where meetings regularly started late, and others where you were expected to be in your seat and ready to go at least a minute ahead of time. It’s an unfortunate fact of corporate culture that bad, or just sloppy, practices get carried over due to “unwritten” expectations by meeting participants.

To get seriously serious about your next meeting, when you’re crafting your agenda, mark out the timeframe down to the minute where you’ll discuss issues at hand, open the floor to questions, assign out tasks, etc. Even if this means writing down “two minutes for introductions” at the beginning, it will be worthwhile, not fiddly.

If you do this every meeting, and the group starts to see that time is wasted because people are consistently filing into the room late, or too much time is spent bickering about the name of the new widget to be produced next quarter, then it’ll be clear where the wheels fall off, and how the situation could be fixed in the future. If you’re conducting the meeting with this schedule in mind and things start to get out of hand, politely steer everyone back to the agenda and timeframe with a note that nobody wants to stay longer than scheduled, so let’s get back to the matter at hand.

5. End with a recap

So many times you walk out of a meeting and have no idea what the “next steps” are for the group. Do YOU have a task? Do you even know if another meeting is necessary? Always use the last few minutes of a meeting (more or less depending on what issue is at hand) to recap what’s been discussed, decided, and assigned.

Make sure everyone who has something To Do knows exactly what’s expected and the timeframe for their deliverables. Is another meeting needed? Let the group know you’ll be sending out an invite shortly to block out their time, and what will be discussed at the next gathering. That way, everyone will have time to get their ducks in a row, and get everything done in time for the next gathering of minds.

Tell Us What You Think

How would you make meetings better? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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