Business Meetings: 5 Ways to Optimize Precious Time

December 4, 2019

Business meetings can be a drag. Nevertheless, here are five ways you can improve your meetings so that you can be more productive and efficient.

People sitting in a meeting on their computers.

Business meetings are unavoidable.  They can be long, arduous, and just plain boring.  Although dreaded by many employees, they do serve a purpose.  The goal of business meetings should be to address relevant issues affecting the company.  Nevertheless, oftentimes assemblies venture into the weeds, which can derail focus.  This causes frustration among employees because after enough botched meetings, they begin to view them as a waste of time.

However, with a little planning, your business meetings can break the mold of the stereotypical assembly.  So, here are five ways to make the most of your business gatherings.  This way your meetings can enable you to have a clearer vision and achieve more with your company.

Are you a Meeting Narcissist?

While many people feel like they do a good job of setting meetings firmly on the calendar, chances are they are inflating how considerate they actually are.  Therefore, here are some no-nos you might be doing, without even realizing it.

Meeting Faux-Pas

Clip art of a frowny face with thumbs down.

You scheduled a meeting, but added more people last-minute. 

While you might feel like you scheduled the meeting with enough notice, adding people right beforehand and expecting them to clear their calendar for you is rude.  Instead, be sure to include all the appropriate people from the beginning.  If you end up needing to add more people, don’t make the meeting a requirement.

You scheduled a meeting, but moved it because your schedule changed. 

Regardless of how high you’ve climbed within an organization, your personal schedule is not more important than anyone else’s.  Keep in mind that employees rescheduling client calls in order to attend a pop-up business meeting reflects badly on your company.  So, get yours on the calendar well in advance so that your employees can fill in the gaps with their client meetings.

You scheduled a meeting for a specific amount of time, but then went over. 

Again, while you might not have something on your calendar immediately after the meeting, other people most likely do.  Accordingly, end the conference promptly on time.  Or, end the meeting a few minutes early, giving people a little time to prepare for their next obligation.

You scheduled a meeting at a time that is not convenient for the average 8-5 employee. 

Image of a man carrying a clock and running into a meeting.

This one’s a biggie.  Now, the thing to remember is that younger workers are often able to pivot more readily than their older counterparts.  This isn’t a reflection on anyone’s work ethic, however, it is simply a reality of life phases.  First of all, the older a person gets, the more likely that they will be the phase of growing a family.  Scheduling anything after 4:30 p.m. is a surefire way to start your meeting on a bad note.  People will not be thinking about the meeting, but they will be thinking about picking up the kids and starting dinner.  Hence, choosing a time in the middle of the workday simply makes the most sense, and will enable your workers to truly be present. 

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If you regularly do any of these things, chances are you are being fairly inconsiderate of your employees’ time.  So, do your best to change your behavior where meetings are concerned.  Of course, there will always be urgent pop-up meetings or changes that require people to attend in a moment’s notice, but make those the exception, not the rule. 

5 Meeting Must-Dos

Now that we’ve established the faux-pas, let’s take a look at the must-dos.

1: Schedule Assemblies in Advance

So, just to recap, you should schedule your meetings well in advance, when possible.  Double-check the invite list so that you don’t have to add people last-minute as an afterthought.  Also, be sure that the forum starts somewhere between 8:30-4:00.  That is going to allow employees to arrive and get settled before the meeting.  Furthermore, it will keep employees from checking out before the meeting. 

2: Make a No-Technology Rule During the Gathering

Photo of people overusing devices during a business meeting.

You’ve probably noticed that in this era people don’t go anywhere without their devices.  In fact, you’ve probably been in a meeting where employees unabashedly check their phones while you and others are talking.  Perhaps you yourself are even guilty of this kind of behavior.  While it is commonly ignored, the truth is that it is extremely rude and disrespectful.  Besides that, scrolling on phones during meetings can waste a boatload of time.

So, why is it such a big deal to read an email, answer a text, or tweet an idea that just came to mind?  Simply put, it means you aren’t truly present in your meeting.  Although people claim to be proficient at multitasking, most people are actually really bad at it.  Furthermore, they are at risk of missing important information that is presented at meetings if they are tuned into their devices.  Therefore, if you are going to expect your employees to be present and considerate of the speakers, then you need to start by setting the example. 

Now, I know you are probably hyperventilating as you think about going for 30 minutes to an hour without looking at your phone.  However, remember that this is finite.  In other words, it will not last forever.  Once the meeting wraps up, you can resume your normal device addiction. 

3: Stick to a Written Agenda

Some companies require weekly team meetings as part of their business process.  While on a normal day there will be plenty to discuss in any given moment, there are some days where there is nothing noteworthy to bring up.  So, always arrive at the gathering with a written agenda, allotting time to each item on the list.  Then, if there is a day when there is nothing new to discuss, don’t fabricate something for the purpose of having a meeting.  No one appreciates wasting time for the sake of checking a box.  Instead, consider making a line item giving opportunities to disclose any questions, concerns, or happenings about which you might be unaware.  Even so, limit the time spent in congregation to a fraction of the normal meeting time.  Alternatively, you could always cancel the meeting altogether (now there’s a thought!).

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4: Assign a Secretary for the Congregations

One of the most important roles you can establish in your meeting is that of Secretary.  Assigning a strong Secretary can help ensure that the conversation will run smoothly, stay on time, and that any follow-up will be managed.   

Furthermore, the Secretary can remind meeting attendees of the time limit.  This person can set the expectation that people can only speak for 30 seconds to make a comment, or that each person is limited to one question.  This will help discourage the guy who likes to talk simply to hear his own voice (we all know this guy!).

5: Make the Forum Interesting! 

Photo of a man sleeping during  in an office chair.
Photo by Patrick Wallace | Source | CC By

This idea for making meetings more palatable is probably a little on the controversial side.  After all, I’ve heard people say, “No one pays me to be Robin Williams.”  True enough.  So, if you go into a meeting knowing that people find them boring, then you will probably live up to that sentiment.  However, if you decide that even though you aren’t Robin Williams you’d like to be more interesting, then there are ways you can go about earning your employees’ attention.  For example, look up a motivational quote to start your meeting.  Or, start with a corny joke.  Something that sparks your employees’ interest, or gets them thinking or laughing is a sure-fire way to set a positive tone for your meeting.

Time is Precious, Meet with Purpose

No matter what you’re doing in life, your time is precious.  Business meetings don’t need to be dreaded and boring.  In fact, they shouldn’t be anything except productive.  Each gathering should be about getting down to business, and then getting back to work.  So, make sure you are leading your conferences with a sense of purpose.  First, be purposeful and thorough when you schedule the meeting.  Then, lead by example where technology is concerned.  Next, stick to a written agenda.  Also, assign a secretary to set proper expectations, record the discussion, and conduct follow-up.  Finally, aim to go into each meeting prepared to not be boring.  If you make these items your baseline for meetings, I assure you that the reputation of your business meetings will change for the better.

Photo of a group of people smiling during a productive business meeting.

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