Say Goodbye to Unproductive Meetings: A Guide to Better Planning, Preparation, and Follow-Up

Say Goodbye to Unproductive Meetings: A Guide to Better Planning, Preparation, and Follow-Up
Photo by Jason Goodman / Unsplash

As someone who's been in the workforce for a while, you've probably attended more meetings than you can count. And if you're like most people, you probably find a lot of them unproductive and a waste of time. In fact, research shows that the average worker spends about 31 hours per month in meetings. That's almost a full workweek!

So what makes meetings so unproductive? There are a few key reasons:

Poor planning and preparation: Meetings that lack a clear agenda, specific goals, and well-prepared attendees are unlikely to be productive.

An effective way to prevent disorganization during meetings is by sharing an agenda beforehand. This sets expectations, charts a clear direction, and gives attendees time to prepare. The agenda should highlight topics that need input, brainstorming, or decisions from the group. When attendees have time to gather their thoughts, meetings are more efficient and engaging.

Create an agenda and share it in advance!

Lack of engagement: Meetings where participants are passively listening, checking their phones, or daydreaming are unlikely to result in meaningful discussions or actionable decisions.

Parkinson's Law states that work will expand to fill the time available, and this can be a problem in meetings. To avoid this, watch the clock and end the meeting early if all the agenda items have been covered. People will appreciate the extra time, and meetings will be less tedious.

Watch the clock and end early when possible!

Unclear roles and responsibilities: Meetings where it's unclear who's leading the discussion or who's responsible for making decisions can quickly become disorganized and unproductive.

Having too many people in a meeting room can lead to inefficiency and frustration. Inviting only those who need to be there will reduce the opportunity cost of attending, and allow for a more productive conversation.

Invite only those who need to be in the meeting

Interruptions and distractions: Meetings that are held in noisy or distracting environments, or where participants are constantly interrupted by phone calls or notifications, are unlikely to be productive.

Multitasking during meetings can cause distractions and reduce productivity. As the meeting organizer, you have the right to undivided attention. Ask attendees to leave their phones, laptops, and tablets at their desks, or create ground rules for no multitasking during the meeting.

Ask attendees to leave their mobile devices at their desks
Photo by Campaign Creators / Unsplash

Tips to Improve Meeting Culture:

  1. Plan ahead: Before each meeting, take time to clearly define the agenda, specific goals, and desired outcomes. Make sure everyone who's attending knows what's expected of them and what they should bring to the table.
  2. Encourage engagement: Encourage participants to participate in the meeting by asking questions, sharing their thoughts, and engaging in discussion. For every 5 minutes you spend disseminating information, be sure to ask at least one question, to ensure everyone understands the information being presented.
  3. Assign clear roles and responsibilities: Before the meeting, ensure everyone knows who's leading the discussion, who's responsible for making decisions, and who's taking notes. Just a quick reminder that someone's input is requested after a meeting can be enough to keep them engaged.
  4. Reduce interruptions and distractions: Hold the meeting in a quiet, distraction-free environment, and encourage participants to turn off their phones or put them on silent, as well as avoiding open laptops, or working on outside projects. If someone doesn't need to be there, mark them as optional!

With these tips, you can turn your unproductive meetings into productive sessions that help you achieve your goals and drive your business forward. So why wait? Start making your meetings more productive today!