by CT Leong, founder of EngageRocket
A study done by The University of North Carolina showed that 71% of senior managers said meetings are unproductive.
This is quite a jarring number given that meetings can take up half of our working hours.
HALF the time we’re spending at work is ineffective?
Any leader responsible for their team’s productivity should be appalled!
Which brings me to ponder on how I personally conduct meetings and how my team does it too. I’m a firm believer that the way people conduct meetings define the business.
Here’s my line of thought:
- If meetings are not effective, then employees are wasting their time.
- If employees are wasting their time, then they’re not contributing their 100% (or even 80% for what it’s worth) to business goals.
- If business goals are not met, the bottom line suffers.
I know many people who would echo my sentiment.
Ok, we’ve established WHY effective meetings are important, but HOW do we get there?
What exactly does it take to conduct a good meeting?
In most of the companies I see, the way meetings are run is highly dependent on the organizer. The good ones just naturally know what to do to set up a good meeting.
On the other hand, bad organizers don’t set clear agenda. As a result, meetings drone on and take up more time than needed, leading to many frustrated participants.
Unfortunately, we might be more familiar with the latter type, and personally I’m on a mission to change that.
From my 15+ years of experience leading teams of all sorts (from the military to consulting to technology), I learned all sorts of things that make up an ‘effective’ meeting.
Which brought me to founding a startup that focuses on driving effective human connections at work. Because effective meetings = better connections = better output.
Below, I’ve outlined my learnings from all the years of consulting and as a founder, which includes speaking to more than 100+ managers and other founders.
I observe three main parts about conducting meetings that differentiate highly effective organizations vs those who struggle to keep track of what their employees are doing.
These will help you get right on track to having better meetings for yourself and your teams (yes, there IS hope!)
1. BEFORE: preparation and prioritization.
The worst thing that could happen in a meeting is someone saying “Can anyone tell me what this meeting is about?” which I’m sure many of us can relate to.
A good meeting organizer would set and communicate a clear purpose for a meeting.
This is so important because it tells people you are serious about organizing meetings. It sends a message to everyone that they too should take your meetings seriously.
Send an invite with the purpose and the agenda outline. If you need input for the agenda, don’t be shy or ask others to fill it up. You can always review and prioritize on the agenda after everyone chips in.
A good rule of thumb is to categorize the agenda by items to inform, discuss, and decide. Items that require decision-making can be prioritized and those under ‘inform’ can go lower in the list.
Doing a good prep puts you right on track to conducting a better meeting already.
2. DURING: collaboration and contribution.
You would have noticed this: some people are more outspoken than others, and some just switch off (or worse, doze off).
Although it’s unlikely to completely change this behavior, there are things you can do to minimize it.
Gone are the days when there are dedicated ‘secretaries’ to write down meeting notes. Seriously, this practice should stop (unless you have a personal assistant!).
Instead, everyone who voices an input or poses a question should write down their notes for others to see.
This is called collaborative meeting notes and it’s one of the most effective ways to encourage contributions, even from less outspoken members.
Another thing that is a common pet peeve is agenda control. We have been in too many meetings where one person (or two!) drones on with nobody being brave enough to stop them.
Avoid this by setting a timeframe for each point, and leave out the last 5 to 10 minutes to recap meeting outcomes and assign action items to participants.
Alright the meeting is settled, but you CANNOT forget about the next part…
3. AFTER: follow-up and accountability.
How often are you in a brilliant meeting where so many great ideas come about… only to disappear to thin air shortly after? More than once, I’m sure.
From my observations, one of the main reasons people feel that meetings are ineffective and unproductive is because the follow-up actions are not clear or well-defined.
This is why follow up is so important.
If action items are assigned to someone, they need to be aware of HOW and WHEN they need to complete those. When they complete those, they need to update others during the next meeting or via other channels.
I cannot emphasize this enough – this seems like a ‘trivial’ act but it’s so crucial for people to get a sense of how the meetings contribute to better things.
Practicing good meeting hygiene
As I’ve mentioned before, meetings are too important to be left to each organizer’s style.
If you’re someone with great meeting habits, you might feel compelled to expect something similar when attending a meeting.
But then again, you might not know how to (politely) ask others to do their meetings well
This is one of the main reasons why I established EngageRocket – to help leaders and managers instill good meeting habits.
I sincerely hope that in the long run, good meeting habits will become the norm as more people become accustomed to it.
CT Leong is the founder of EngageRocket, a SaaS startup with a mission to turn digital connects into meaningful human connections at work. Before becoming an entrepreneur, he was a Regional Director of Gallup. He graduated with a degree in Economics at the University of Cambridge, and has an MA in Political Science from Columbia University.