Running Your Business

4 Tips for Shorter, More Effective Meetings


  • Effective meetings are generally shorter and scheduled less frequently

  • An organized agenda acts as the complete outline for what needs to get discussed during a meeting

  • To keep short meetings productive, it's best to appoint one of the attendees as the meeting facilitator

Posted by September 27, 2018

Let’s face it—we all spend too much time in meetings.

It’s estimated that the United States holds more than 25 million meetings a day. In fact, Inc. reports that 92 percent of employees are multitasking during meetings, meaning their attention is on something else anyway.

If you’re hoping to create more effective meetings within your organization, there are a number of strategies you can leverage. Here are four helpful tips for cutting down on wasted time and enhancing productivity.

1. Set Expectations

Before you make company-wide updates to the way meetings are approached, it’s a good idea to set expectations with your team members (regarding the changes you plan on making) ahead of time. Even if you think your colleagues will be relieved to spend less time in meetings, they’ll require some time and space to alter their behaviors before the change takes place.

A simple memo can be the spark needed to introduce the idea of shorter, more productive meetings to your coworkers. However, leading by example is just as important. You want your fellow employees to see that you’re also prioritizing your days and trying to spend as little time as possible in meetings. Other small but helpful changes include adjusting the room scheduling tools to only allow for the room to be booked in small increments, such as 20-minute blocks, and purchasing cloud-based communication software your staff can use with their peers and clients.

2. Schedule Fewer (and Shorter) Meetings

This may sound simple, but once you’ve decided to change how you schedule meetings, set a date to follow through. Then reinforce that you have two main goals with this initiative—fewer meetings and less time spent in them.

One easy way to work toward the goal of fewer meetings is to poll your management team to see how often they schedule team meetings. If they’re currently meeting on a weekly basis, they may be able to shift that to a monthly meeting with a weekly email sent out to share vital information and gather notes.

Similarly, you may want to mandate that all scheduled meetings stay under a certain time frame. It’s important to remember that some departments (or topics) may require different amounts of face time, but it’s reasonable to request that managers keep things brief.

3. Share Agendas Ahead of Time

An organized agenda acts as the complete outline for what needs to get discussed during a meeting. You can skip the review of the last meeting’s minutes—which often creates new conversations that rehash old topics—and instead, just create a bulleted list of any action items that were incomplete prior to this scheduled meeting. Then add the key discussion points that need to be addressed within the time frame you have available, and stick to those guidelines for your discussion.

If a new topic gets introduced during the meeting, ask all attendees if it needs to be addressed then, or if it’s something that can be followed up with later via email. This can help ensure everyone is on the same page.

4. Appoint a Meeting Facilitator

Don’t let meetings run themselves. To keep short meetings productive, it’s best to appoint one of the attendees as the meeting leader. This person will have the responsibility of ensuring that the agenda is being addressed, and that one item on the list isn’t stealing all of the time. Facilitators should also kindly remind participants who are speaking for a while that they need to move on and address something else.

Over time, you’ll learn which team members can naturally manage a meeting. A strong facilitator will rein participants back in, adhere to a set agenda and squash any chatter not directly related to what needs to be discussed.

There is definite value in scheduling some face-to-face time (whether in person or on a virtual conference call) but to hold the most effective meetings, remember to keep them short and don’t overschedule them. The more efficient and streamlined your company’s meetings are, the more time your coworkers will have to engage in their everyday tasks—and apply what they’ve learned.

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