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It’s important for employers to get meetings right

If there’s one thing most employers have in common, it’s meetings. That’s right, these ubiquitous gatherings of invited participants are commonplace occurrences at workplaces, whether real or virtual, far and wide.

But there’s trouble afoot. Earlier this year, global software developer Atlassian surveyed 5,000 knowledge workers on four continents. Of those respondents, 78% said they must attend so many meetings that it negatively affects their productivity, and 77% reported that they’re often in meetings that conclude with the immediate need to schedule another meeting!

Has your organization ever addressed how to best handle meetings? Perhaps the best way to optimize their frequency and prevent them from lowering productivity is to run meetings in a manner that inspires participation and focuses on results. Assuming you’re the meeting leader, here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Motivating participants

Meetings often fail because attendees feel more like spectators than participants. They’re less likely to zone out if they have some say in the purpose and content of the gathering. So, before each session, touch base with those involved and use their feedback to create a clear agenda of what you’ll be discussing.

Another common problem with meetings occurs when someone leads the meeting, but no one owns it. Speak with conviction and express positivity, if not passion, for the subject matter. If others will be delivering presentations during a meeting, encourage them beforehand to do the same.

Mixing it up

To the extent possible, keep meetings short. Cover what needs to be covered but ensure you’re concentrating only on what’s important. Go in armed with easy-to-follow notes so you’ll stay on track and won’t forget anything. The latter point is particularly important because overlooked subjects often lead to those hasty follow-up meetings mentioned in the survey results.

In addition, if the contingent of attendees is large enough, consider having employees break out into smaller groups to focus on specific points. Then call the meeting back to order to discuss each group’s ideas. By mixing it up in such creative ways, you’ll keep attendees more engaged.

Telling a story

Many potential distractions can inhibit the value of any given meeting. If it’s held in the morning, for example, the busy day ahead may preoccupy participants’ thoughts. If it’s an afternoon meeting, they might grow anxious about their commutes home or after-work obligations. And if the meeting is held virtually, there’s no denying the ease with which participants can sneak peeks at their smartphones to check emails, texts and social media.

How do you break through? People appreciate storytellers. Think about how you can use this technique to find a more relaxed and engaging way to speak to everyone in the room. Devise a narrative that will grab attendees’ attention and keep them in suspense for a little bit. Then deliver a conclusion that will inspire them to work toward achieving the actionable items raised.

Recognizing the possibility

For most employers, occasional or even relatively frequent meetings are a necessity. How often to hold them, however, depends on many factors, including your organization’s mission and the specific needs of its respective departments. Just be sure you’re recognizing the possibility that those with the power to call meetings are doing so too frequently. An employee survey can help you find out.

From there, it may be worth your while to invest in leadership training that teaches managers, supervisors and others to run meetings with efficiency and measurable results in mind. Contact us for help analyzing your organization’s productivity and identifying all the costs associated with holding more effective meetings.

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