Though meetings are a necessary evil for nearly every industry, they consume a significant portion of the workday. According to the National Statistics Council, employees spend 37 percent of their time in meetings on average. Meetings often take time away from employees’ projects and other priorities, cutting into productivity and sometimes delaying the completion of tasks. But perhaps more importantly, for organizations, employees’ time spent in meetings can represent significant costs. So how can organizations flip the switch and make meetings more engaging and productive?
Fortunately, IT solutions and some documented best practices are all it takes to improve the productivity, quality, and engagement of your next meeting. Here are a few methods organizations can adopt to facilitate better, and ultimately more productive, decision making during meetings:
1. Circulate agendas, goals, and materials in advance – Rather than going into a meeting blind, meeting moderators should share all essential documents to allow attendees to prepare and make for more productive discussions. By avoiding this first step, most meetings end up requiring time to explain the purpose of the discussion rather than hopping straight into the agenda. Without upfront materials, attendees may realize their presence isn’t needed or perhaps that they should have prepared materials and talking points to keep the discussion on target. Oftentimes, these situations result in scheduling another meeting.
With the right technology solution in place, attendees can seamlessly share goals, agendas, and documents in one central location. With some tools, participants can embed links to their shared folder directly in the meeting invite. When materials are hosted securely on the Web, attendees can gain instant access to necessary information – at any time and from any device. This way, attendees can feel more prepared heading into meetings and ready to tackle action items.
2. Communicate outcomes after the meeting – Meeting pain points often stem from ineffective communication. When action items and decisions aren’t communicated effectively, attendees run the risk of missing key points if they didn’t take quality notes. Meeting software is available to simplify the process for sharing notes, decisions, and to-dos following meetings. Even when an employee misses a meeting, they’re able to quickly catch up via their colleagues’ notes.
3. Set uniform standards for conducting meetings – Meetings are run differently depending on who is leading the discussion. This can cause headaches when trying to determine to-dos before and after a meeting. For instance, some leaders include an agenda in the invite while others share it via a Word document. Some meeting moderators don’t include an agenda at all. That’s why organizations should consider adopting IT solutions that provide uniformity and predictability. With meeting software, assets are presented in the same format every time to ensure participants can quickly locate what they need and prepare for their meeting rather than figuring out each leader’s work style while it’s happening.
4. Delegate tasks to keep meetings on target – Without the proper controls in place, meetings can quickly derail. Irrelevant conversations can drive meeting participants away from the agenda, which often results in another meeting to discuss the intended topics. But when agendas and goals are distributed before, meeting leaders can set expectations to keep these conversations on track.
5. Ensure to-dos are executed – Most meetings result in action items and next steps that attendees need to address. Since these tasks are usually tracked by individual assignees and managers, to-dos can easily be put on the backburner or simply forgotten about. To prevent this common pitfall, organizations should make next steps and who’s responsible accessible to all meeting attendees. Technology can foster accountability among meeting attendees and better manage tasks.
Despite the staggering amount of time employees spend in meetings, they’re here to stay. To ensure meetings drive business forward rather than waste time, organizations should invest in software that fosters efficient, decision-oriented conversations.