6 Ways to Make Your Meetings More Productive

Conference RoomCustomer service departments, like most entities of most corporations, seem to have a thing for meetings.

I personally don’t like meetings and I think the usefulness of getting everyone in a conference room to discuss something that is most likely pretty trivial is limited at best. Bureaucracy in general is something that I try to avoid (and suggest that others do as well) and I feel as if most meetings just contribute to bureaucracy. Too many companies (and units within them) fall into this trap where they equate talking about getting stuff done with actually getting stuff done. Meetings do not necessarily equate to productivity.

With that in mind, some meetings are necessary. Even as someone who grew up in the email generation, I still believe some meetings are useful written about such meetings in the past. Here are some of my tips on how to conduct an effective meeting:

  1. Have a formal agenda and distribute it beforehand. I always like to email out the agenda of the meetings I’m leading to whoever will be in attendance beforehand. It gives them an idea of what the meeting will be like (length, format, etc.), what will be covered, and if they might need to do anything to prepare. Sending an agenda out in advance also gives people time to suggest topics to add to the agenda.
  2. Stick to the agenda. An agenda is useless if it isn’t being followed. As the person leading the meeting, make sure you stick to it. I like to include estimated time frames for different parts of the meeting, mention who will be talking during each part, and so on. A detailed agenda lets people know how the meeting should progress.
  3. Let people know what they need to do in advance. There are different groups of meetings attendees at pretty much every meeting. Some people have something to present, some people are just there to listen, others are there to approve or reject ideas. Make sure everyone knows what they’re responsible for doing well in advance of the meeting and that they have time to prepare accordingly.
  4. Focus on action items. On every agenda I hand out, the back side has a section for notes and action items. Every person needs to leave the meeting with an idea about what the next steps are and what they need to do. This is where most meetings fail.
  5. Take notes. Assign someone at or bring someone to the meeting in order to take notes. This person should pay special attention to action items and noting steps, obstacles, etc. involved with actually get work done.
  6. Turn off the BlackBerries, etc. I have a BlackBerry and I like it a lot. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t checked my BlackBerry during a meeting and I’d also be in denial if I said no one has ever checked their BlackBerry when I’ve been presenting at a meeting. Cell phones, PDAs, smartphones, etc. are a distraction during meetings and should be turned off during the meeting. The policy should also be enforced.

There comes a time when email or IM just doesn’t cut it and you need to sit down and meet face to face. When you do have that meeting, try to keep some of these ideas in mind. These are things I’ve used to help ensure the meetings I have end up being productive meetings and to date, they’ve worked well. Feel free to share your own tips in the comments.

photo credit: faungg

3 Responses to “6 Ways to Make Your Meetings More Productive”

  1. Tom Vander Well said:

    Sep 30, 09 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks for a great post! As a fellow meeting-averse person, your tips are right on the money. I also like when an ending time is set for the meeting, published ahead of time, and the chair of the meeting makes sure people are done on time!

  2. Gijsbert Croes said:

    Oct 03, 09 at 4:35 am

    You’re absolutely right. I might add to your list to not overcrowd the meeting. Try to limit the number of attendees to 8 or maybe even 6. Much more productive.

  3. Lisa Trosien said:

    Dec 13, 09 at 2:01 pm

    Great list! I’d just make one more suggestion. I use ‘timed agendas’ where each item on the agenda has a time limit. This keeps attendees from waxing on about one topic and causing the meeting to either run over or be unable to complete the entire agenda. It also makes people be more succinct with their commentary.