Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that meetings are a divisive subject in the workplace. Some managers seem to thrive on calling meetings for every little thing, whilst others prefer to avoid them unless absolutely necessary. But even if you’re of the ‘hate them’ persuasion, there’s no getting away from the fact that the meeting is somewhat of a necessary evil.
Meetings do serve a very real purpose in that sometimes you really do need that team, or even company, get-together to partake in a spot of brainstorming or to make sure everyone is on the same page. However, there needs to be some parameters in place to stop it becoming a free for all.
Indeed, when run properly, meetings can be productive and, dare we say it, even quite enjoyable. So if your employees seem to be suffering from meeting dread, what can you do to turn it around?
For a start, it helps to know exactly what it is so many people don’t like about meetings in the first place. Common complaints include:
- Meetings quickly seem to get off topic
- One or two people dominate the meeting and don’t let anyone else get a word in
- Meetings drag on for too long
- There are just too many meetings
So let’s take a look at some ways your HR department can run your own meetings more efficiently - and help your company’s managers and team leaders do the same!
6 Tips for making your meetings more efficient
Whether your meeting is held in the office with all the department there in person, it’s purely held on Zoom or it’s a combination of the two due to your hybrid work model, here are some ways to wrestle back control and ensure that your meetings are productive.
Tip #1: Decide what kind of meeting you want to hold
To stop meetings becoming absolute carnage with everyone talking over one another and the subject in hand quickly getting derailed, it helps to plan what type of meeting you want to have in the first place.
For example, are you holding a meeting to get an update on where a project is at? Or are you explaining how a new piece of software such as your new Human Resources Information System (HRIS) works and how it can help your employees book time off?
Clearly these are two very different types of meeting and you will want to plan for that accordingly. During a project update, you will want to hear from all of the people involved. If you’re explaining a new software system, however, you - to put it bluntly - want people to shut up and listen! (Of course, there should be plenty of time for questions at the end.)
When you schedule your meeting and invite people to it, make sure they know what sort of format it will take: For example a presentation, project update, brainstorming session, or a discussion about something that’s gone wrong.
Tip #2: Choose a subject based upon the desired result
People will be less inclined to groan when they see your meeting invite pop up in their mailbox if they know what to expect. ‘Quick Catch Up’ doesn’t really say anything and is especially frustrating if these catch ups are never particularly quick in the first place!
Instead opt for a subject that tells the invitees what the meeting is about. Think ‘Meeting to Finalize Design Team KPIs’ as opposed to ‘Design Team Update’.
When you start your meeting, remind the attendees what the meeting is about and what the expected outcome will be. This will help everyone stay focused on the point of the meeting. If someone tries to go off topic, pleasantly remind them what the meeting is about and suggest that you have a conversation - or indeed a separate meeting - about their issue later.
Tip #3: Elect someone to run the meeting
It might be you or it might be the team supervisor, project manager or department head. Whoever it is, it needs to be made clear that this person is leading the meeting. They are the one responsible for achieving the end result and for making sure the topic at hand doesn’t veer wildly off track.
It might sound more democratic to hold a meeting where anyone can say anything at any time - and indeed, attendees should all be able to speak their mind and have input - but without someone taking overall ownership there is a much higher chance of the meeting losing direction, becoming unproductive and running over its allotted time.
Tip #4: Don’t just set a start time - set an end point too
The problem most people have with meetings is that they can run on needlessly. The majority of employees would rather be getting on with their work than listening to someone who likes the sound of their own voice ramble on about something that could be dealt with in a fraction of the time.
So that people can get back to their desks, armed with the information discussed at the meeting, and continue doing what they’re there for, try setting a cut off point by which time all topics must have been covered.
Having a finish time will also make it easier for the person who is hosting the meeting to pull up people who are talking needlessly by reminding them of the time.
Tip #5: Ensure that the meeting stays on topic
It can be all too easy to come to the end of a meeting without having tackled the issue at hand. Digression is a natural part of conversation, and that’s fine when you’re in the bar having post-work drinks on a Friday, but less than ideal when you need to make decisions, train a team, or brainstorm for marketing ideas in a prearranged time slot.
If your meeting is threatening to outstay its welcome and you get the distinct feeling that a hundred topics are being discussed but no solutions are being created, it’s time to wrestle back control.
There are a couple of different ways you can avoid the dreaded descent into all-talk-and-no-action. For example:
- Decide how long you want to spend discussing each topic and set an alarm (such as on your phone) to go off at the end of that time period. When it goes off, move onto the next subject.
- You can also use the old school tactic of taking notes and highlighting crucial aspects of the conversation on a whiteboard.
- Or, if you’re hosting the meeting online, you could do the same but in the chat box of whichever platform you’re using - i.e. Slack, Skype, Zoom etc.
Tip #6: End on a solid note
Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste by ending on a wishy washy note with vague mentions of ‘following up at a later date’. Make sure everyone knows where their responsibilities lie and if they need to take any action.
For example, “Accounting needs to let Sales know when the new commission rates have been worked out.” doesn’t exactly fill the Accounting team with a sense of urgency. Instead, you need to word it more directly: “Accounting will let Sales know the new commission rates by lunchtime next Thursday.”
And of course, don’t forget to send meeting minutes to everyone involved with their tasks and deadlines clearly stated so that there’s no option for excuses!
6 Tips for making your meetings more efficient: conclusion
It’s unrealistic to think that meetings can be eliminated in the workplace. For one thing, how else are you going to stay in touch, check in and engage with your remote employees?
But meetings don’t have to be an almighty time suck and the source of employee frustration. Keep your meetings controlled, on track, lean and productive and you might just find you’re all getting a lot more work done!