Make Your Meetings More Efficient

by Rachel Hartman on July 16, 2013
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Are meetings draining you and your employees of time and energy?

The average business meeting lasts 45 minutes and has 4.3 people in attendance, according to a new report by Blue Jeans Network, which offers cloud-based videoconferencing. For the report, the California company examined data from more than 1 million participants in 177 countries who’d used its network for meetings.

Although meetings are a necessary fact of business life, finding ways to keep them short and productive gives you more time to focus on other important tasks. Here are four ways to make your meetings more effective.

1. Have a goal. Keep your meeting focused on one purpose with a few agenda items, suggests Matthew Harrington, co-author of Survival of the Hive: 7 Leadership Lessons From a Beehive. Perhaps you want to schedule a short, 10-minute meeting each morning with employees to go over the day’s tasks. Or maybe you want to set aside 30 minutes at the end of the week to evaluate your company’s marketing strategy. For a quarterly or annual staff meeting, you might block off time to go over the company’s current financial standings and then look at future plans.

2. Be prepared. Send a meeting agenda to employees to help them prepare. The list of topics you’ll cover shouldn’t be long or elaborate. In addition, “share information, data, and background materials via email well ahead of the meeting,” Harrington suggests. Include questions for participants to think about, so that they come to the meeting ready to share ideas.

3. Keep an eye on the clock. If your meetings tend to run long, appoint someone to keep track of time — and work to get through the items on the agenda within the set time period. This strategy can boost morale, Harrington notes. “Participants will feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when a meeting successfully does what it set out to do,” he says. They’ll also be more willing to come to the next one.

4. Break out of the conference room. Patrick Barnhill, co-owner of Specialist ID, says his company’s meetings often take place during an office-wide pizza lunch, a beach day, or another team activity. This can help spark creativity, he explains. “We [sell] products that are designed for events and outdoors,” he says. By taking these products to a setting where they will be used, such as the beach, workers can have fun with them, talk about them, and even photograph them.

Rachel Hartman is a writer who frequently covers topics related to small businesses. Her work has appeared in The Costco Connection, Wells Fargo Conversations, Pizza Today, Bankrate.com, InsuranceQuotes.com, CreditCardGuide.com, and many other outlets.

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