Yet, despite offering many benefits, they can also be a big drain on workers’ time if they aren’t managed effectively or organised with a clear purpose.
A study by Epson and the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests that less than half of the time Brits spend in meetings is actually productive. With the average worker in meetings for four hours a week, the impact of unproductive meetings can be substantial. In the UK, estimates suggest that unproductive meetings could be costing the economy as much as £26bn each year.
Here are five tips for having more productive meetings.
1. Be prepared
As any good businessman will tell you, preparation is the key to success and meetings are no different. Whether you’re attending a weekly catch-up or pitching to a big-name prospect, it’s important to have a back-up plan in place in case the session doesn’t go as expected. For instance, if you are due to give a presentation but your PC won’t turn on, it could be game over, but if your files are saved on a USB stick or stored in the cloud, you can simply switch to another machine.
When presenting, practice really does make perfect. It is well worth taking the time to rehearse what you want to say so that you can see how much time you will need to say it. If you keep running over or find yourself being repetitive, you can cut down on your slides or how long you spend on each item and prioritise the points that you want people to remember.
2. Get set up
When you’ve finally managed to get 30 minutes in the diary with a prospect you have spent 12 months trying to get a meeting with, you don’t want to waste ten of those minutes scrambling round in a panic because an overhead projector isn’t working or you can hardly hear one another over a shaky phone line. Not only is this frustrating for you and the other meeting attendees, but it can appear unprofessional, especially if it is a reoccurring problem.
Whether you are using the same online meeting tool you have used every week for the past five years or are trying out a video conferencing suite for the very first time, it’s worth spending a few minutes to check that everything is working as it should before a meeting is due to start. If meeting in person at a client or prospect’s offices, it can be a good idea to ask if you can enter a meeting room a few minutes earlier to get set up. It prevents delays and shows that you really value the other attendees’ time.
3. State the meeting objective
While it may seem simple, sharing an agenda ahead of a meeting is one of the most effective things you can do to prepare for a meeting. Aside from providing an opportunity to check that all parties are on the same page, a clear agenda gives you a structure to follow in the meeting, ensuring that nothing is missed off and that you achieve exactly what you want to.
However, even if you have shared an agenda beforehand, there’s no guarantee that everyone will have looked at it. To make sure that all parties understand what the purpose of the meeting is, a productive way to begin is to quickly summarize what you are meeting to discuss and why. This gives you the chance to clearly outline objectives and shows that you mean business.
4. Know when to end the meeting
There is nothing more frustrating than having to end a meeting before you’ve had a chance to cover everything on the agenda because you have overrun the designated timeand somebody needs to leave. Always be aware of how much time attendees have for the meeting and keep an eye on your watch throughout to make sure that you’re on track. If other parties are taking too long to make their points, be assertive and step in to speed up the pace of the meeting.
At the end of the meeting, summarise the discussion and resulting actions and follow up with an email afterwards to remind all parties what was agreed. If you require another meeting at a later date or a separate meeting with some of the attendees, the end of the meeting can be a good time to arrange this.
5. Make a recording and use it
If you’re having an online meeting using a tool such as join.me, making a recording so that you can share this discussion with those who were unable to attend can make good business sense. If you’re meeting face-to-face, a good option is to use a smartphone to record what is discussed.
Recording a meeting can also help you from having to repeat the same information time and time again for people who were not able to attend a meeting due to a clash with their schedule or time zone. Instead of having a series of similar meetings, you could record one and share a link to the recording, so that other people can listen to it. While this might not be appropriate for every meeting, there are occasions when it could be a big time-saver such as delivering a training or running through a new product’s specifications.
Lou Orfanos is Vice President of Products, join.me at LogMeIn.
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