Meetings – love them or loathe them, you cannot escape them. Wherever you work, chances are that you will be dragged along to or hold at least one meeting during the course of your working week. Sometimes they are fun and productive but, more often than not, they feel like an incredible waste of time when there are a million and one other jobs you could be getting on with.
Few people are brave enough to walk out of a meeting they can’t see the point of, but what could you be doing to make sure your meetings aren’t a boring time-waster? Here are just a few top tips for holding better meetings.
Hold them at a sensible time
Choosing when you hold your meeting is an incredibly important first step. Holding them first thing in the morning is almost always a terrible idea because hardly anyone is at their most productive before that third cup of coffee or when their minds are on the scores of unopened emails they have to deal with. The hour after lunch is also off the cards, with many people feeling a bit drowsy or still distracted by the internet shopping they started during their break. An ideal time would be just before most staff head out for lunch, perhaps between eleven and one o’clock. By that time people are more alert and focused.
Smaller is better
There’s no point inviting anyone and everyone because most of the people there will feel the meeting is irrelevant to them and a massive waste of time. People who feel they shouldn’t be there have a tendency to fidget and lose concentration, which can have a detrimental effect on those who should be involved. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has a rule of thumb when it comes to meeting sizes, limiting attendance to the number of people who can be fed by two pizzas. Smaller groups can also be far more productive because everyone has a chance to get their voice heard without people shouting over one another.
We’ve all sat in meetings where the convenor has tried to be a Powerpoint whizz and spent so long taking you through their beautiful slides that the overall message is lost. Technology is great when it works, but all too often it’s a one-way-street where nobody else gets a chance to share ideas, and it eats into time which would be better spent in discussion. Technology should always be the support act and not the main show. Ultimately, nothing beats a good old-fashioned conversation.
Give some space for the quiet ones
You should always listen to the quiet ones when they do speak up because they’ve often spent longer working out their ideas than the motor-mouths who just like the sound of their own voices. It’s worth asking quieter team members their thoughts before a meeting, and if they don’t want to take the floor you can voice their opinions and give them credit (“As X rightly pointed out to me earlier…”). Research has also shown that women are often interrupted or spoken over by men, but by giving a female colleague the chance to speak first, you encourage other women to chip in.
Holding better meetings is largely down to keeping them short, keeping them simple and only inviting the select few people who really need to be there. Poor meetings are down to poor management or letting the debate get out of control. Have a clear purpose and set of goals to work towards, and make sure everyone knows what they are and what is expected of them.