Unproductive meetings waste $37 billion a year. So how can you make sure your business isn’t contributing to this statistic?
Now more than ever, business meetings have to be productive. With upper management spending 50% of their time in meetings and 15% of an organisation’s collective time spent on them, it’s worth getting them right.
In this day and age, meetings aren’t guaranteed to be held in person. In fact, the person you’re meeting could be sitting on the other side of the globe, clicking that scheduled meeting link in their calendar and hoping their Wi-Fi connection is strong enough.
Here are our five top practices for ensuring efficient team meetings.
- Stick to the Agenda
- Ensure Inclusivity
- Encourage Active Listening
- Get the Technology Right
- Communicate the Next Steps
1. Stick to the Agenda
The hallmark of a good meeting is an agenda, set out before the meeting begins. Nowadays, we can schedule meetings in calendars with added information - this is where a rough agenda can go. It can even include objectives or expectations so participants know what exactly they’ll be focusing on and what ideas to bring to the proverbial table.
Remember, when an agenda is designed, it needs a facilitator to keep things on track. This will most likely be the person who called the meeting, but it can be a role assigned to anyone. In fact, impartiality in relation to the meeting agenda might actually help keep things ticking along, as the meeting organiser might find reason to discuss one item for more time than is allocated.
When thinking about agendas, remember to consider:
- Meeting times: Start, run and finishing times - these are important for keeping the momentum and not eating into anybody’s day. They also allow you to delineate the time spent on each topic.
- Keep an eye on the clock: Make sure you’re not running over allocated times.
- Assign roles: Organiser, facilitator - these are givens, but what about someone to take notes? Similarly, you can assign people to deal with issues that are raised during the meeting, who are known as Directly Responsible Individuals (DRIs). These people will hunt down solutions to issues and hopefully report back in the next meeting.
2. Ensure Inclusivity
Did you know that more than 50% of current employees would like to see their businesses become more inclusive?
A common issue that faces efficient team meetings is inclusivity. This is a problem, as meetings are the focal points in which both culture and innovation grow and mix - two things every successful business needs.
Now, inclusivity can have multiple definitions here, but they’re all good to meet. We can define inclusivity within meetings as:
- Inviting a wide variety of people.
- Did you know that women are almost twice as likely to be interrupted during group dialogue? Inclusive meetings mean ensuring that all opinions are heard and respected.
- Maintaining that a meeting is a safe space to air concerns or issues.
- Removing the hierarchy within meetings - when you enter the room, everybody is equal regardless of position.
- Ensure time zones are considered for people joining from other countries - not everyone likes having to conduct a business talk at 3am.
- Similarly, if languages may be an issue during international meetings with external stakeholders, make sure a translator is on hand to help out.
- Provide remote workers with video-conferencing capable devices, with good quality cameras and microphones.
- Utilise an easily accessible online meeting platform so that anyone invited doesn’t struggle to gain entrance.
Inclusivity is also present in the practices that help a meeting go on. These could include:
- Taking written notes or recording sessions for those unable to attend.
- Ensuring recorded sessions utilise closed captions for those hard of hearing.
- Have participants write down questions that can’t immediately be asked or answered.
- Have the meeting led by a small group of people who each cover one issue rather than one person covering them all.
In all, inclusivity and diversity is an advantage. Companies that have above-average diversity in terms of gender and engagement outperform those without by 46% to 58%. These same benefits can be seen in meeting rooms when inclusivity is championed.
3. Encourage Active Listening
A 2018 study into conversations discovered that, on average, participants only remember up to 20% of the ideas expressed in a conversation. This means that meeting groups could be forgetting up to 80% of what was covered after a short time.
So how do you guarantee that not only ideas are remembered better, but people are more present within the conversation? At this point, if you’re following our guidance, the agenda is set and the meeting is accessible, even to those invited from further afield.
To circumvent the problems of memory, there’s another key practice to maintain - active listening.
So how do you encourage active listening?
- Ensure the meeting is held at an agreeable time. Some longer meetings are best held in the morning, when people are fresh.
- Ease into the meeting, potentially with a ten or 15-minute ‘icebreaker’ period where people can chat or catch up. This can be especially important for remote working teams who might not have seen their friends at work for a while.
- If conducting a meeting via video conferencing, remember to mute other tabs so that you’re not getting distracted or distracting other people with the sound of a notification.
Video conferencing can actually be a really good way of ensuring active listening. You can see all participants simultaneously, share screens in order to physically see in real-time what someone is talking through and can easily identify who is talking due to the speaker usually being highlighted when producing noise. Simple interface choices like this really help us to focus.
4. Get the Technology Right
Efficient team meetings depend on the ability to communicate and share information. This can be a little more difficult when participants are either working remotely or located in another country. However, with the right technology, no one will have a hard time during meetings, unable to either join because of distance or see the documents people are referring to.
Video Conferencing Software
During the COVID-19 pandemic, video conferencing software really came into its own, allowing distanced teams to still meet and even socialise. Free tools like Skype have helped and conferencing-enabled software specifically designed for businesses in mind, such as Microsoft Teams, have been the perfect companions for organisations split up over distances.
Collaborative Solutions Accessed Through the Cloud
The kind of solutions that allow businesses to share files and collaborate during meetings are the ones needed right night now. These should be device-agnostic - accessible through any cloud-enabled device, such as laptops or smartphones.
Similarly, for those employees who find themselves away from their laptops, many communication platforms will allow access to audio or video conferences through smartphones.
5. Communicate the Next Steps
Hopefully, meeting leaders will be able to implement the previous four practices and the meeting has run efficiently, but it’s not over yet. The effects of a well-run meeting will be felt internally, which should be supported by the strategic next steps that help maintain that momentum.
At this point you can:
- Provide a summation of the meeting, including action items. This is the perfect point to send out recordings of the meeting with summary notes attached.
- Assign DRIs to follow up on specific potential solutions to issues.
- Organise further meetings to discuss outcomes or side discussions that had been tabled.
You can also ask for feedback at the end of meetings to gauge how they went and improve on any issues that were felt by participants.
Now, communicating the next steps ensures better alignment across your business. What is alignment? It is when everyone is on the same page about a certain issue, idea or project and knows the next steps they have to take in solving or implementing it. Alignment is an important thing to achieve in a business setting, securing:
- 38% more sales proposals.
- 58% faster revenue growth.
- 72% more profitability.
Running efficient team meetings depends on these five practices: agendas, inclusivity, active listening, post-meeting steps - and the right technology. In fact, meetings and software choices are just two parts of your business-wide communication strategies. In today’s business climate, these strategies depend on centralisation.
Centralising your Communication Strategies
In this year and in the future, it will be important to review your communication strategies and centralise those strategies where possible. Through this, you can identify issues and opportunities with your existing technology and come up with solutions.
To find out more about centralising your communications, download our guide by clicking the button below. Inside, we’ve covered why it’s important to improve business communications to capture both staff and customer benefits - and potentially increase revenue.