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Best practices for productive meetings

Valerie Rozova
February 2022

Remote work leads to the increase in senseless and endless meetings. The survey by Korn Ferry showed: more than 67% of respondents spend too much time on meetings and calls. Consequently, their productivity sinks and everyone suffers from unnecessary meetings. Just imagine: the calendar is over-flooded with meetings that are sure to be boring, unstructured, and exhausting. As a result, there is less time for achievements, work results get less impressive, and motivation drops.

On average, company employees attend 207 meetings a year. Noteworthy, 67% of them are unproductive since participants do not achieve the goals set before the meetings. Our clients tend to claim that meetings get longer, more crowded, and more messy. Now they are harder to manage, meanwhile, whatever you do, there is always somebody who is not satisfied by the meeting.

Possible reasons:

  • you forget to specify the goal of the meeting. When you go shopping with a list of products to buy and when you are just walking through the store, you get different results. If the goal is not set and explained to others, the goal of the meeting turns into the meeting itself: "Everyone has it, so we also need it".
  • meetings are poorly moderated. As a result, people swear, switch to another subject, or lose focus. Meetings are exhausting and take a lot of energy: "It seems like we sat for two hours, but there is no result."

The results:

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In USA, business losses are about $37 billion due to unproductive meetings

Let's figure out how to make meetings more effective. For this, we will discuss why meetings are needed, how to prepare for them, how to conduct them, and what to do next.

Every meeting has a set of goals:  

  1. to share information. For example, to present the department's strategy for the year, tell about the new grading system or the company's key clients, and explain what projects you are working on. You give information, your team members receive it and ask questions.
  2. to collect information. In this case, on the contrary, you learn something to work with this information later. For example, you may distinguish who of your team members hires people and how. How they do research or what they don't like about your motivation system. Here your task is to organize everything for everyone to speak out comfortably and to hear everything they say attentively.
  3. to solve the matter. Probably the most difficult type of meeting, because it involves active work and on-the-spot decision-making. In this case, you decide, for example, what customer onboarding should be, how to work with lead scoring, what discount policy you should have, or how to deal with a poorly functioning PR department.

63% of meetings do not have a pre-planned agenda

Meanwhile, it is important to define the goal for it will keep both you and participants focused. Follow the rule "1 meeting — 1 goal": even the most talented managers find achieving several goals in one meeting pretty tricky.

After all, multitasking is a myth. Research shows that multitasking, trying to take on twice as much cognitive load, simply cannot be done. Our brain doesn't work this way even if you decide to parallelize cognitive activity with a more automatic one.

How to prepare for the meeting

  1. Think over the structure.
  2. Identify the participants. Think twice not to invite the extra ones, but also not to forget the ones who will make the meeting complete.
  3. Make an agenda and send the event to everyone's calendars. Attach the agenda here for nobody to lose it.
  4. Book a meeting place, prepare it. Think about what additional tools you may need. For an online meeting, take care of access, and give participants enough time to get acquainted with the tool you are going to use if it is new to the team.
  5. Prepare visual materials. Print out the charts, prepare and send the presentation.

How to hold a meeting

Firstly, you should be completely involved in what is going on. This is the basis of a cool result.
Secondly:
  1. Start with the goals: "As a result of this meeting, we will understand how the company's motivation system works."
  2. Point out the structure: "Today's meeting will have the following structure. Firstly, secondly, thirdly."
  3. Take care of your vocabulary. Write out the terms someone may not understand beforehand.
  4. Lead everyone according to the designated structure: "Let's start with", "Let me remind you, now we are here."
  5. Control the meeting not to depart from the structure and not to lose the core idea.
  6. Take out the off topics and put them down to use in the future: "We will return to this topic later since this is not the goal of this meeting."
  7. Record the important things. You can even appoint a person responsible for follow-ups.
  8. Draw intermediate conclusions according to the structure.
  9. Be sure to announce the overall result of the meeting: "We will not launch a project to change acquiring because", "Now you all know how to onboard an employee and that's how you can put it into practice."
  10. Tell what off topics you have taken out and what will be done with them next.

Things to do after the meeting

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Any meeting requires preparation, attention, and concentration. All these take a lot of time, but it's better than wasting resources on the team's motivation. Hold meetings wisely!

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  • Send the notes from the meeting to everyone. They should include the results of the meeting, the next steps to take, and who is responsible for them. Besides, you should also point out the off topics found and what will be done with them.
  • Send the materials from the meeting: the presentation, the data demonstrated, and something you promised to send after the meeting.
  • Gather feedback individually: let the team tell what you could have done better.
  • you spend more time on solving problems: to achieve at least some kind of a result, you need to attend dozens of meetings;
  • the motivation to attend meetings or hold them drops;
  • the company's money is being spent because people are meeting instead of working.