Studies show that over a third of all meetings are unproductive. Maybe you have sat through a few yourself!  Many high profile leaders and CEOs take meetings very seriously to keep the meeting times and the company as efficient as possible. 

Meetings don’t have to be a huge time suck and resource waster for you or your team. 

Stay on track

Have you ever become frustrated because you found the meeting going off the rails because the room is talking about everything but the items related to the reason for the meeting? It can happen easily enough and before you know it either your meeting is running over or you didn’t accomplish the goal and you have to meet again. 

My friends in the talent development industry often deploy a “parking lot” strategy to keep meetings focused. They will bring a giant sticky pad of paper upfront and if something comes up that begins to bring them off-topic, they will note it in the parking lot and have someone follow-up on it after the meeting.  I’ve seen meetings where the parking lot is filled and others where it’s empty because no one wants their idea up there. 

Agendas with times for each person are another great tool as long as everyone agrees to keep to it. Put an expectation and plan in place to keep your team focused on the reason for being in the meeting.

Respect the time and try to beat it

If you use an agenda with time allotments, make sure that you stick to it and do your best to beat it. I’ve been in meetings where a financial update was always given a standard 10 minutes. The person could have updated the team in 2 minutes, but always used 10 minutes because that’s what they had. 

If you reach the end of your time, table the rest for next time, or follow-up in a post-meeting communication. If the issue is of top importance for the meeting, ask if someone can give up some of their time so you can finish. Just don’t make it a habit to do so. 

How many slides do you need?

Many people use slides because it helps them keep on track and it enhances the communication to the team. Just as many people use slides as a crutch by simply reading each slide or use it as a filler for their allotted time. 

Check yourself on the reasons for your slides and the value that they add to the group. If you are just simply reading slides, try to do your portion once without them. It will push you in your presentation skills and will likely lower your time. Help for good powerpoint presentations is out there if you search for it. The Atlanta Chapter of ATD usually offers a seminar of creative Powerpoint a couple of times a year and it’s one of our most popular events. 

Do you even need the meeting?

Sometimes we caught get up in meetings just for the sake of meetings. For some leaders, it gives them a sense of connection and work accomplishment. Go through your calendar and determine if the meeting is actually warranted. Perhaps two can be combined into one. Maybe you can meet less often. There are likely hidden efficiencies in your meeting calendar. 

Include only those that are truly needed

As you look at your calendar of meetings, perhaps you see ones that do need to happen but don’t really require that you attend. Work with the leader of the meeting to excuse yourself and ask for meeting notes if needed.  Reverse the idea for the meetings that you lead. Look at the room and determine who really needs to be there. 

One of the most frustrating things for a good employee to deal with is sitting through meetings that are unnecessary for them to be in. It’s a waste of their time and your resources. 

Keep your meetings focused and as short as possible. Determine the right people in the room and free people up to do their jobs outside of the meeting space. 

Make a better tomorrow.