They’re an essential part of business life, but if you’re not careful, your meetings might simply be good for only one thing – zapping precious time. Unfortunately, it’s been estimated that UK workers will waste up to a year of their lives in useless meetings, which costs the UK economy around 26 billion pounds ($35 billion). Not only does the average office worker feel like they have to attend too many, more often than not these meetings go on for too long, often with no clear purpose or goals.
Every single day, businesses across the UK are suffering hours of wasted time at the hands of long, arduous meetings when a simple email or phone call would have sufficed. Therefore, employees are being warned to keep participants to a minimum and relay a strict ‘no-electronics’ policy if they really want to get the most out of their business meetings.
By following these seven Golden Rules brought to us by LondonOffices.com, offices across the country should be enjoying short, snappy and productive meetings in no time.
1. Be prepared
You’ve been invited to the meeting for a reason, so make sure you’ve prepared at least one thing to contribute. You might consider asking yourself these three questions before agreeing to attend:
Is this meeting necessary?
What is the purpose of the meeting?
Who absolutely needs to attend?
It’s also a good idea to jot down a few questions you’d like to ask during the meeting – in the heat of the moment these ideas can easily be abandoned.
2. Be exclusive with your invitations
When you receive a meeting invite, ask (politely) if you absolutely need to be there. Some of the biggest and most productive companies – like Google and Amazon – have rules in place to keep attendees to a minimum. For example, Amazon has a “two pizza” rule, which means they’d never hold a meeting in which they couldn’t feed the whole group with two pizzas.
Often, office politics get in the way of who really needs to attend, but if you want a productive meeting, you’re going to have to be exclusive with your invites.
3. Be savvy with your time
Your time – and everyone else’s – is valuable, so make sure you use it wisely. If no-one else does, create an agenda which outlines the purpose of the meeting, topics of discussion and the time allotted for each, any decisions that need to be made, who is attending and where it will be held. This will help the meeting flow and ensure you cover everything you need to in the time given. You could even consider using a timer to alert you when the meeting should be wrapped up.
This also brings into question deadlines – make sure you have specific but realistic deadlines of when you would like your objectives completed so that everyone is on the same page.
4. Keep distractions to a minimum
Meetings are held for a specific purpose and to achieve specific goals, so if attendees are checking emails or phones throughout, this is only going to kill productivity and make it more difficult to accomplish what you set out to do.
So, at the start of the meeting, you might want to suggest that mobile phones be put on silent and placed face down on the table for the duration, and you can provide participants with a printed agenda and copies of any presentations that include space to take notes the old-fashioned way – it’s less distracting than typing and removes the visual obstacle that a laptop creates.
5. Encourage participation
Try not to let a small number of people control or dominate the meetings. Instead, create a friendly atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable expressing their own opinions.
Terms like “ice-breaker” make a lot of people cringe, but a round-table question gets the conversation going, or take it one step further and incorporate a team-building activity to break up a dull topic.
6. Change things up
Try not to follow the same format or schedule at every meeting – your employees or fellow colleagues will just get bored. Instead, take the most productive elements out of the past few meetings you’ve been in and band them together to form a new approach. This might mean ditching the PowerPoint Presentation or even getting rid of the boardroom setting.
Another option is to meet standing up – the idea if that people will become uncomfortable standing up and therefore won’t want to ramble on and elongate the meeting unnecessarily.
There’s nothing worse than leading a presentation and knowing that your audience is clearly not engaged, so try and impress with your own listening skills. By making eye contact and nodding and smiling throughout, you’ll be practicing some key active listening skills which doesn’t just mean that you’ll benefit from what’s being said – you’ll also build a relationship with the presenter.