Business meetings are a necessary evil. They can be a productivity killer since they disrupt workflow and distract people from their daily tasks. However, communication is imperative in business, and business meetings help keep everybody on the same page and focused on the same goals. The key is to make each meeting as efficient as possible, so that employees all contribute to them instead of looking to them with dread. This requires planning and discipline.
The first step to hosting effective meetings is to schedule them at an efficient time. Employees are typically more focused in the middle of the week, so Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays are advisable, assuming a typical five-day work week. Avoid scheduling any business meetings right before or after a weekend or break.
Only invite people to the meeting who absolutely have to be there. The more people in a business meeting, the less productive it is likely to be. When too many people are present in a meeting, either everyone starts talking over one another, or the meeting is dominated by a couple of people while most others tune out the conversation. It is easy for workers to be passive and inattentive during business meetings if they are not well-structured. Long, inefficient meetings also negatively affect employee morale.
Having a specific agenda for every business meeting is also vital to avoid wasting time. Time easily gets away from everyone when there is no specific agenda for what to talk about and no set time frame for the meeting to take place. Have a firm start and end time for the meeting, and do not deviate from those times. It is easier to stick to that schedule when you have a written agenda that lists the topics and objectives for the meeting.
Another method for keeping a business meeting brief is to conduct the entire meeting with everyone standing up. It is human nature to get more complacent and comfortable when sitting down. Everyone is likely to be more attentive, focused and efficient if they stay standing during the meeting, and this decreases the time an average meeting takes as a result.
Holding regular office hours also helps you to reduce the number of business meetings you need to have on a regular basis. This is an approach regularly taken by Google executives to increase overall office efficiency. Set aside a specific time each day where employees can meet with you to discuss current projects, ideas or concerns. This reduces the amount of conversation required during the larger meetings, helping to move them along at a brisker pace. This improves employee morale as well.
Only hold business meetings when there is something important to talk about with your employees. Holding regular meetings just for the sake of having them does not help morale; it just reduces employees' efficiency. It is important for everyone to contribute without the meeting degenerating into a chat session. Experiment with these methods for improving your business meetings, and see the results for yourself.
Photo courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net