HR & Management

Five ways to hold more productive business meetings

5 min read

01 August 2016

Everyone needs to have them, but without a bit of management, meetings can be a major drain on your time and productivity when you’re running a business. So, what can you do to ensure your meetings improve the way you work, rather than hinder it?

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(1) Make sure everyone knows the goal and agenda

Without clearly communicated goals, it’s likely that your meetings will be less productive and take more time to complete. That’s because you’ll have attendees who start meetings unfocused and others who may not even need to be there in the first place, so it’s important to clearly define your meetings in advance to avoid any wasted time or effort.

By setting an agenda for every meeting you have, regardless of how small it is, you’ll be able to explain your goals to attendees in advance and enable them to decide how useful the meeting will be – and if they actually need to attend.

Most of your staff have checked Twitter, Facebook and Instagram during meetings

(2) Surrender your mobiles

Mobiles and tablets may be important to use in your business on a daily basis, but they can also be an unwelcome distraction when it comes to meetings. After all, the temptation to answer emails, respond to customers on social media or do some online research can be far greater than actually paying attention to who’s talking.

So if you often find that phones get as much attention as speakers during a meeting, you may find it more effective to ban mobiles altogether. Removing distractions can help you focus your meetings, which should help reduce the overall time you spend in them.

Continue on the next page for the remaining tips, including why you should consider mixing meetings up with methods such as the walk and talk.

(3) Set a time limit

It’s incredibly easy to lose track of time in meetings unless you have a set structure in place to keep you – and your attendees – focused. Many successful companies set specific time limits for their meetings and incorporate non-negotiable break times at regular, defined intervals to maintain productivity and concentration.

You may also want to consider designating a timekeeper at every meeting to make sure all attendees work towards your time deadline.

Need proof that meetings are a waste of time? Here it is

(4) Go virtual

Some people still view teleconferences and virtual meetings with trepidation, possibly due to previous bad experiences with technology. But if you’re spending hours travelling to meet clients face-to-face – and paying for the cost of travel to do this – using a tool like Skype or GoToMeeting to hold a virtual meeting could help dramatically cut that wasted time and save you money.

Just make sure you keep the number of people who join your virtual meeting to a minimum. Two or three people can have a highly productive video call, but any more than that and you’re likely to see diminishing returns as it can be difficult to keep on top of who’s talking at any given time.

And always check that your tech is working in advance, otherwise you’ll end up re-scheduling meetings more often than actually hosting them!

How a CEO of two companies spends his time on meetings

(5) Do something different

If you find that your meetings go on for too long or don’t have a lot of energy, you may find it beneficial to mix things up a bit. Rather than a traditional sit-down meeting, you could hold a standing discussion instead. Or if you’re finding that your office environment isn’t fostering the right level of creativity or collaboration, it might be a good idea to change your surroundings completely.

OK, so you may not fancy the cliché of doing business on the golf course, but an alternate premises or even outside (such as a walking meeting) may be more beneficial than being cooped up in a stuffy meeting room.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box with your meetings and try to make them a little unusual or exciting. You may just find that this provides the spark you need to boost your productivity.

Ed Molyneux is CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, which provides cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro-business owners and their accountants.

Don’t miss these lessons from David Brent about what NOT to do in meetings.

Image: Shutterstock