Make Your Business Meetings Matter More

How many hours a week do you spend in meetings? Too many?

There are times when you may disagree with this view, but meetings — whether they’re with your internal team or external associates — are important. They align people around the same information and drive engagement by giving people a chance to be heard. The problem is too often we end up sitting through bad meetings that don’t accomplish the objectives set or, even worse, erode employee morale.

If you think you’re been sitting through more of those bad meetings than ever before, you probably are. According to one study, the number of business meetings has increased 153 percent globally since the start of the pandemic. A lot of the casual conversations employees used to have in person moved to Zoom meetings during the pandemic, and they’ve stayed there. Zoom has proven to be a hard habit to break.

The key to efficient meetings is a clear purpose and advance planning that is based on a set of guiding principles. Let’s start by looking at purpose, because it seems obvious that if someone is getting together with one individual or a group of people, there’s a reason for the meeting. And while the meeting organizer may have a set of topics in mind, taking the time to write a well-thought-out agenda will ensure the outcomes desired of the meeting are achieved. 

Here’s a pro tip: frame agenda items as questions, and focus discussion in the meeting around answering each question. The exercise of converting agenda items into questions may reveal there isn’t a compelling reason to meet. If you find that there are no questions to be answered, go ahead and cancel the meeting.

Establishing guiding principles for meetings covers a lot of ground. It includes the meeting format, length, attendees, and other items that inform the overall planning of the meeting. Some things to consider are whether to send out an agenda in advance; set aside a dedicated question period; and encourage questions throughout. Also, be sure to inform participants about the expectations around contributing to the discussion: raise their hands to ask questions and don’t interrupt while others are speaking.

Always respect the scheduled length of a meeting, so participants can meet other obligations. If your meetings typically run long due to group discussion, one trend that has proven successful in addressing this issue is the standing meeting. And if your meeting runs shorter than anticipated, end the meeting early — don’t feel compelled to keep people together for an unstructured conversation to fill out the remaining minutes.

Great meetings result in a sense of accomplishment. People leave inspired and motivated to get to work. If you think your team meetings aren’t all they might be, take some time to experiment with these ideas and find the right meeting balance for your business.

If you would like to learn more about how this might apply to your business, let’s talk:

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