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January 3, 2017

Cindy Penchina, President

6 Tips for Making Staff Meetings More ProductiveDo you ever get the feeling your team would rather have a root canal than sit through another meeting? Are they using the time together to catch up on their sleep? Has it reached a point where you’ve started boring yourself?

It’s time to take a cold, hard look at how you’re running your meetings and if they’re actually bringing your company real, concrete value. Because if your main goal in a meeting is to keep people awake, something is off.

So let’s discuss how you can design your meetings to keep team members alert, attentive, and more productive.

1- Start on Time

You know how it goes.

The meeting was scheduled for 11:00, but when the time came, Alice was elbow-deep in paperwork, Jimmy was in line for the restroom, and Candace was preparing her salad for lunch. Oh, and George had to run home to let his dog out.

Sound familiar?

A meeting’s start time shouldn’t be negotiable, but rather, exactly what it sounds like: time to start the meeting. It’s not time to put on another pot of coffee, hit the ladies room, or check email one last time. Because if you start letting people slack on their attendance, meetings will become a massive rush in which nothing gets accomplished, or worse yet, ditched altogether.

Be firm about start times and hold people accountable for showing up on time. While that doesn’t mean you should be using a stopwatch or keeping score, you should make latecomers aware that just one employee’s tardiness can affect the whole team.

2- Have a Set Agenda

If you’re holding meetings just because your calendar told you it was time but you don’t have anything to discuss, they’ll be a huge waste of everyone’s time. And although it’s nice to check in with your employees, say, every Tuesday afternoon, they should never feel as though they’re waiting for something productive to talk about while you’re just winging it.

Instead of holding employees hostage while you fish for something to say, be respectful of everyone’s time by starting your meetings with a set agenda. This will give you a roadmap to follow for when the conversation inevitably veers off into new territory.

3- Invite Only the Essential People

Ever go to one of those meetings where you spend the entire time wondering what anything that’s being discussed has to do with you? Talk about a waste of time.

Avoid inviting employees to meetings who won’t have anything to contribute or to gain. By knowing your agenda ahead of time, you can be sure that the people in attendance will be relevant to the discussion at hand, meaning that they will have something of real value to contribute to the conversation.

4- Keep Employees Engaged

If people walk into your meetings like they’re on death row, you’re doing something wrong. Now, I’m not saying you need to run them like Michael Scott and make people forget they’re even in a meeting, but you do want to keep your employees engaged.

Try kicking things off with a question to break the ice. Or, if your team has difficulty collaborating, try a team-building activity to get everyone energized and on the same page. The goal is for employees to view meetings as a welcome break in the day, not something they have to suffer through.

5- Change Up the Scenery

Still having trouble navigating through the meeting sludge? Try a change of scenery. By taking people out of their routine spot, they’ll automatically be more alert, since they’ll need to adjust to the new environment.

It can also be a welcome change of pace to get some fresh air in an outdoor meeting (weather permitting of course), or even just in a room that’s more stimulating than the stuffy board room.

If you really want to kick it up a notch, try investing in some comfy furniture. You’d be surprised at how a couple of bean bag chairs and some couches can put employees at ease and help them open up more.

6- Solidify Next Steps

You did all the right things – you started on time, invited the right people, stuck to the agenda, and kept everyone comfortable and engaged. Meeting success! So now everyone should return to their desks, pick up where they left off, and forget everything that was just discussed, right?

Not so fast.

What about all of those great ideas that were shared and goals that were agreed upon? Who’s accountable for all of that? The thing is, if everyone is equally accountable when the meeting is over, no one actually is.

So, before you send everyone off on their merry ways, establish concrete next steps for everyone once they leave the room. Delegate tasks, make to-do lists, send calendar invites -- whatever it takes to keep the right people accountable so that the productive conversation that was had wasn’t all for naught.

If everyone leaves a meeting with information they didn’t have before and a solid plan for putting that knowledge to good use, productivity will climb and employee morale will move right along with it.