Nobody likes business meetings. So why do we have so many? Unfortunately, they’re a necessary evil when it comes to running a business. Having led my fair share of meetings at CorpNet, believe me when I say I hate meetings as much as my employees.
When I see an employee’s eyes glaze over and stop listening to what I think is essential material, I take note and I take action. Over the years I’ve devised my own strategies for waking meeting participants up and making the meetings more productive.
1. Meet More, Not Less
I know how this sounds, but hear me out. When you meet once a month (even once a week might not be often enough), your meetings tend to go on and on. People stop listening 15 minutes in. So while you have plenty of material to cover as you try to minimize your meeting frequency, you’re actually less productive when you try to get it all covered in a single meeting. Instead, opt for more meetings, but keep them short and under 15 minutes if possible.
2. Keep Those Meetings Brief
I know, you’re still reeling from me suggesting that you hold a 15-minute meeting. Crazy, right? Hear me out. If you’re holding more frequent meetings, you don’t need them to all be an hour long. You’ll keep your staff’s attention span for such a short meeting, and they’ll be more likely to be productive as a result of the meeting. Set a timer if you have to, otherwise, the meeting will go on and on.
3. Center Each Meeting Around a Single Topic
If you’re meeting more regularly, you won’t have that desire to have a 10-topic meeting (you’re starting to see how all these tips work together, aren’t you?). It’s better if you keep each meeting on a single topic, like “sales” or “brainstorming new products” rather than diluting your team’s brainpower over several different topics. Only invite those essential to the topic, and free up everyone else to get back to their own assignments.
4. Know When to Take the Conversation Offline
Everyone’s going to want their say in your meetings, and that’s fine, within reason. When the conversation strays from the topic at hand, gently guide everyone back to what your focus is. If an employee really wants to keep talking, invite him to schedule an appointment with you later so you can “take it offline” and keep the meeting from derailing.
5. Send a Summary Email
After each meeting, send (or have your assistant send) an email summarizing what was covered, and noting who’s responsible for what action items. This keeps it completely clear what your expectations are of others once they leave the meeting room.
Meetings don’t have to suck. Just be aware of your staff’s energy levels, and know when to call it quits. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your breath.