4 Ways to Make Your Meetings Meaningful Again

Few aspects of the workday are as universally loathed as meetings. More than 10 years ago, the blog Coding Horror called meetings the place “where work goes to die.” According to Zippia’s research, companies spend roughly 15% of their time on meetings, and employees and managers surveyed said 71% of those meetings are considered unproductive. There’s even a niche industry for those notoriously hilarious office meeting bingo cards. (A quick Amazon search shows 106 listings for them.)

Unfortunately, meetings are unavoidable. Without them, communication suffers, and projects go awry. But even though meetings are inevitable, the boredom and frustration they can cause isn’t. Check out these four tips for revitalizing meetings at your organization.

Set a Specific Agenda

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a survey by the Harvard Business Review found that 63% of meetings don’t have a recurring, set agenda, while 37% don’t have an agenda at all. It’s critical to have an agenda of topics up for discussion and action. Distribute agendas in advance to allow participants to come prepared to contribute.

Make Sure Your Participants Participate

If a meeting consists of the organizer providing a one-way information dump, it’s no wonder those in attendance feel bored. To avoid this, construct ways for everyone to contribute, whether it’s through pre-assigned presentations by multiple employees, team-building exercises, or Q&A sessions. Just make sure to communicate your expectations for how everyone should get involved in advance. Otherwise, when you open up the floor, you may be met with the sound of crickets.

Build In Off-Ramps for Distracting Comments or Questions

Nothing can send a meeting into an unproductive spiral like an extraneous comment or an irrelevant question. You may be saying, “I thought you wanted everyone to participate,” but the key here is to stay on topic. But what if someone raises a good point or has a valid question that just so happens to be completely unrelated to the subject at hand? That’s where “parking boards can come in handy.”

Parking boards are whiteboards you set up in your meeting space to jot down questions that are important but could derail the meeting if any time is spent discussing them. These boards allow you to “park” topics for later follow-up. Of course, if you use this tool, it’s critical that you do, in fact, follow up and get answers to those extraneous questions.

Bring the Meeting in for a Landing

Set an alarm for 10 minutes before the meeting’s scheduled ending time. When it goes off, start summarizing what has been covered in the meeting and what each participant’s deliverables are moving forward. That way, you don’t have to worry about ending things at an awkward, mid-exchange moment with employees wondering if it’s okay for them to leave.

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