If your meetings regularly exceed their scheduled time, or they just generally seem to take too long, then this post is for you. Long, unproductive meetings are extremely common, but you can get them running like a swiss watch if you put these strategies into practice.
1. Only invite people who need to be there.
There is a tendency to invite all department heads, or even the entire staff, to meetings with a specific agenda. Make an attempt to only invite the people who are directly involved with the project or agenda, and everyone else can remain productive.
2. Come with a written plan, and stick to it.
Many team leaders come into a meeting planning to discuss general topics, instead of specific points. Whomever is leading the meeting must have clear items that will be presented to the group, and what is to be accomplished.
3. Just cover the bullet points.
Firstly, during the meeting should not be the first time everyone is hearing about whatever you’re covering. Be sure that each team member is sent an email with the full details for each point, and a lot of discussion can actually be done through email. That way, you don’t have to go in-depth for each point during the meeting.
4. Start on time, and end on time.
Everyone’s time is valuable, and a lot of that time is used up waiting for late arrivals. As the facilitator, make sure that you are on time, and start the meeting regardless of whether everyone made it, or not. In the same way, meetings that routinely go off the rails are a huge waste of time. It takes practice to stay on topic within a short timeframe, but you should always be striving to use only the allotted time.
5. Avoid socializing.
Speaking of going off the rails, allowing everybody to socialize before or after a staff meeting is a huge time-waster. You all work together and of course it’s fun to catch up, but remember that this is still company time. To let everybody blow off some steam together, you can schedule a time for everybody to meet for a drink sometime or set up a company outing.
6. Don’t open up the floor for random discussion.
One question you want to avoid is, “Is there anything anyone would like to discuss?” This can breed drawn-out conversations about things that are way off topic. Make it clear to your team that if there is something they would like to discuss in the meeting, they need to submit it to a contact person beforehand.
7. Don’t review.
Not to say that reviewing the meeting minutes is a bad idea, but if everybody already has a written copy of what was covered, then you can save a few minutes by cutting the review. Just make sure that everyone has a good understanding of the subject matter.
8. Some complex problems may be saved for a one-on-one.
Take a look at your agenda for the upcoming meeting. Are there items on the list that can be directed to a single person? Take those off the agenda, and save it for some face time with them, personally, so that it doesn’t take up time during a group meeting.
9. Record your meetings to see where you can improve.
It may seem frivolous at first, but if you begin to record at least audio of your meetings, you can pinpoint where you’re spending too much time and generally how to improve your efficiency. Recalling how it went and trying to adjust is difficult, but actually listening to the recording and watching the time is the best way to improve.