6 ways to make meetings better

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Meetings are a pretty necessary part of work-life — but they don’t have to be painful.

Humans make meetings painful — and they have the power to stop.

In fact, one of the most effective, productive, cost-cutting, and motivating actions employers can take is to take control of their meetings.

Here’s how to do it.

Cut the fat (aka the people and content that don’t absolutely need to be there)

I like to use a writing analogy here – unnecessary words restrict word flow.

The more you cut, however, the clearer and less painful your content are to read. At its best, great writing can become one of the most pleasant things a person can experience.

“Think of meetings as a company’s blood flow: When they are well-run, ideas and decisions flow through them like oxygen through veins, invigorating every aspect of the business, stimulating new ideas and pushing strategy forward, making it healthy and strong. But poorly run meetings constrict that blood flow. They create blockages, stifle innovation and make the business sluggish and unhealthy,” explains Forbes.

“When I hold workshops with my clients, I always start with the question: How much of your time in a typical week is wasted in bad meetings, conference calls or poorly communicated messages? I’ve never had anyone say less than 20%, and I sometimes hear up to 80%. On average, I hear around 50%. That’s a huge problem,” explains persuasive communication expert Dean Brenner. 

It all begins with better communication.

Show respect for your employees’ time

Begin by simply beginning and ending your meeting on time. Then, give your employees plenty of breaks to help them digest. Remember: increasing productivity is a marathon, not a sprint.

Have an agenda

“Letting all of the attendees know exactly what you want to achieve and talk about will help everyone stay focused on the matters at hand,” says Science of People. “Only around 37 percent of meetings in the US use agendas, despite the fact they greatly improve productivity.”

Think about what you want your audience to know ahead of the meeting. This will help your employees feel more in control and also allow them to prepare questions ahead of time.

Keep in mind that people are visual learners, meaning that images, diagrams, and graphs will help them process what you’re saying.

Have a clear call to action

The best message is the one that’s easiest to understand. It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be really clear. Give a play-by-play guide as to what needs to be done, and the exact steps needed to achieve it. In marketing, a call to action is designed to get an immediate response from the person reading. The same concept can be applied to meetings, too.

Location, location, location

Always hold your meetings in the same room? If you answered yes, this isn’t helping maximize your meetings. The good news? Moving to a new conference room (or even to the cafeteria) has the power to reinvigorate your meetings (and employees.) Today, unproductive meetings waste more than $37 billion per year in the US alone, according to Research Digest. Don’t be a part of this statistic.

Stick to the “two-pizza” rule

Want to learn from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos? Us, too. Bezos explains that if you need more than two pizzas to feed people, there are too many people. In fact, studies show having over seven people in a group drastically reduces decision-making abilities, about 10 percent for each additional person.

This is also where interpersonal aggression begins.

“Research has shown that designing your meeting to consider noise level, lighting, and refreshments all can improve perceptions of meeting quality. Who wants a meeting over lunch with no food? Or a meeting first thing in the morning without coffee on tap?,” explains Science of People.

Setting up your meeting as an opportunity instead of a requirement changes the game.