8 ways to have more productive meetings in 2013

Meetings can be quite the time sink, so we’re betting that one of your New Year’s resolutions is to have more productive meetings in 2013. And we’re here to help: here are eight great tips and tricks to make sure your meetings are short and sweet and to the point, and that they get things done.

The top reasons why meetings fail are because they involve the wrong people, there are too many people in the meeting, and there is no plan for the meeting. So your basic plan of attack is to make sure that you:

1. Invite less people

The first trick is very simple then: define the goals of the meeting, and invite only people who can help you reach the goal of your meeting.

2. Decide what you want to achieve

Generally, you will meet to solve a problem, share information, or make decisions. Decide beforehand what you want to achieve.

Do you need a decision, or do you need someone to take actions afterwards? Make sure you know what items on the agenda require which end result.

3. Set an end time (and choose an irregular meeting lenght)

Meetings without a set agenda drag on endlessly and leave everybody bored, frustrated or worse – ready to pick a fight with a colleague over some minor point. So mail out the agenda to all the participants and stick to the agenda, but also set an end time for the agenda. This keeps people focused, and less likely to start checking e-mails.

Instead of automatically using a one hour block for your meeting, try irregular time intervals like 20 minutes, or 35 minutes. The precision indicates to the participants that you have given some thoughts to how long the discussion about every topic should take, which inspires confidence and avoids boredom.

4. Move around, or better yet: stand

With everybody half hidden behind his laptop screen, there’s little dynamic in the room. Make sure that at least the leader of the meeting is moving around and active during the meeting. Use a whiteboard or a flipboard to keep track of the agenda meeting. An even better way to make sure your meeting stays on track (and the participants awake) is to have everyone stand up during the entire meeting.

5. Ban smartphones and laptops for productive meetings

A meeting is no place to check mails, Twitter or Facebook. Collect all smartphones and laptops in a box.

6. Involve everyone

Some people will want to be heard on every topic, while others will make faces or jerk around a bit in their chair without actually speaking out. Make sure you gauge the body language and facial expressions of the meeting’s participants and call on them to voice their opinions if necessary. Don’t let people monopolise the conversation, and stop any off topic discussions immediately. You have an agenda, so stick to it.

7. Take notes

Make sure you make notes of any decisions you made during the meeting – people have a tendency to only remember the conclusions that they want to remember.

If something necessitates action, make sure you indicate who will take the action, how they will proceed and when they have to deliver the result.

8. Send meeting notes as early as possible

People like short feedback loops – it gives them the feeling that they accomplished something. So try to send out the meeting notes as early as possible, but definitely within the first 24 hours after your meeting. This will give people the warm and fuzzy feeling that you had a productive meeting that actually achieved a result, and will motivate them to make more useful contributions to your next meetings.

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