how to lead productive meetings that actually get things done

We’ve all been there – sitting in a meeting and wondering why the meeting is happening in the first place. Sometimes the leader is woefully underprepared. Sometimes shooting the team a quick email would have served the same purpose. Sometimes it seems like the meeting is just an excuse to socialize. Whatever the reason for your bad meeting, there are better things you could be doing with your time. You have countless things on your to-do list that need your attention.

Meetings can take up a lot of time. Sometimes it seems you have meeting just for the sake of having a meeting. We have meetings about having meetings. But you have to ask – what are your meetings actually accomplishing? A recent report by Harvard Business Review summarizes research findings of Steven Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina, about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of meetings:

“We surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries: 

  • 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work.
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.
  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.”

In fact, HBR research found that “only 17% reported that their meetings are generally productive uses of group and individual time.” Productive meetings have a defined purpose, structure, and they accomplish an objective.

Here are some great tips to lead productive meetings that actually get things done.

making meetings more productive

is a meeting really necessary?

Before you create that meeting invite, ask yourself, “Is a meeting really necessary?” Do you really need to block out 30 minutes or hour of people’s time? Is there a better way to communicate what you want to discuss? Always consider whether a quick phone call or an email is a better alternative before scheduling a meeting.

prepare ahead

Meeting planning is important. If you're going to book meeting time, it’s important to have a clear purpose and plan for the meeting. You can’t just book a meeting and make it up as you go. Time is valuable, so make sure you get the most out of the meeting time.

have a list of key points to talk about

As part of your planning, create a list of key talking points you would like to address during the meeting. This will help you stay on topic and accomplish everything you want to during the meeting.

request everyone come prepared

Depending on the meeting type and purpose, it’s important to request others also come prepared to contribute. If everyone has their part of the meeting prepared, it's easier to get other people’s input and engage them in the conversation.

invite the right people

Limit your meeting invites to the people who need to be there. Not everyone has to be part of every meeting. Don't invite people unless they have an active part in what you're planning. Keeping meetings smaller and more intimate makes it easier to get things done and follow up. You can also have deeper conversations and get more accomplished.

turn off phones

Consider having a no phone rule for your meetings. Technology in general can be a huge disruption during meetings. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones can all take meeting participants’ attention away from the meeting.

give everyone a chance to speak

Provide all meeting participants with the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. People will find meetings more useful if they are active participants. If there is not a need for someone to contribute, consider not including them in the meeting.

prepare a post-meeting game plan

Conclude all meetings with a summary of the key points you addressed and, if applicable, provide meeting attendees with a plan of action and next steps. Your meeting should help keep the project on track and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

send a follow-up email

A lot of things can get communicated during a meeting. Always send a meeting follow-up, thanking people for attending. Provide participants with a summary of the meeting and outline important information, tasks assigned, next steps, and a proposed time for the next meeting.

 

Productive meetings are possible, if you take meeting planning seriously. Avoid having meetings just to have a meeting. Consider if a meeting is necessary, and if so, make ample use of the time. This will help you make meetings at your company an effective tool to get things done.

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