Let’s face it, many of our days at the office are drowned out by too many meetings.

While it’s easy to shrug it off as part of work culture, quantifying all that time on a per-week basis would likely reveal a question we’d be afraid to answer: Does all that time spent talking in meetings translate into action, or better yet, revenue?

Studies show that there are multiple reasons businesses are beginning to think more critically about the way we spend our days during the hours of 9-5.

  • 47% of workers say unnecessary meetings are the top culprit for wasted time.
  • On average, an employee spends about 31 hours a month in meetings.
  • Ineffective meetings cost US businesses  $37 billion in salary costs per year.

That’s a ton of time and money spent on, well, nothing at all. Stop blocking out hours best spent elsewhere to sit in a room with daydreamers, side-conversations, and stressed-out coworkers laser-focused on their laptops. Instead, shake up the status quo by giving your office meeting policy a serious makeover.

How to Hold a Productive Meeting

#1. Determine the “Why”
Any meeting organizer should easily be able to answer: Why does the meeting need to happen? Before sending calendar invites to colleagues, one should be able to confirm that the meeting is necessary because:

  • The task at hand can’t be effectively communicated by email, chat, brief, etc.
  • All preliminary work is completed and now other skill sets are needed.
  • This major initiative must have prior input from stakeholders.
  • There are several approaches to this project so a discussion is needed.

Employee creating an agenda to avoid having too many meetings

#2. Create an Agenda
If a meeting is required, the meeting organizer is responsible for drafting a well thought out, actionable agenda that prepares meeting participants by answering the following questions:

  • What is the goal of this meeting?
  • What topics will be addressed, and in what order?
  • What questions will the group answer?
  • Are there materials that should be reviewed prior to the meeting?

#3, Invite the Right People - No More, No Less
When selecting people to invite to a meeting, consider the cost of having them in the room. The meeting organizer should imagine they are paying each attendee for the hour they are present in the meeting. What would the ROI of their attendance amount to? It’s not always easy to know who to invite, so as a rule of thumb, limit meeting invites to stakeholders and those who will be assigned action items as a result of the topics discussed.

A female employee meeting with a small group of colleagues

#4. Stick to the Agenda
Tangents and side conversations can turn an otherwise productive meeting into a directionless waste of time. To avoid getting off track, the meeting organizer can project the agenda in the room. If someone begins to speak about something off topic, the meeting organizer can politely direct that person toward the meeting agenda and ask them to reserve comments or concerns until the end of the meeting after all topics have been addressed.

#5. Assign Action Items
The meeting organizer should conclude the meeting by assigning attendees with specific tasks that contribute to the gathering’s overall goal. In order to produce a healthy ROI for a meeting, it’s important to equip responsible parties put their talents and experience to good use right away. To avoid lag time between the meeting and assignments, outline expected assignments in your project management system prior to the meeting. Set reasonable deadlines so participants understand the timeframe in which their portion of a project should be completed the moment they commit to a task.

#6. Follow up on Assignments
When meetings are paired with a culture of accountability, they’re instantly more productive. The meeting organizer or project stakeholder should follow up after the meeting to check in on tasks that are in progress, pending, and nearing their due dates. That way, the entire team takes responsibility for what they committed to completing in the days and weeks afterward.

A meeting organizer following up to ensure tasks are completed

Now that you have some ideas about how to make meetings more meaningful, spread the word. When there’s no criteria to deem a meeting “necessary”, your employees can schedule meetings about anything and everything as much as they like. Provide clear guidelines that show when a meeting needs to happen and how to ensure it’s first and foremost productive, just the right amount of inclusive, and seamlessly on track, from start to finish.

Encourage Productivity by Rewarding It 
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