7 Surprising Ways to Make Meetings More Productive

Meetings. A productivity seeker’s worst enemy, but a necessary evil.

While it’s true that most companies would be able to save a lot of time if they scrapped meetings, for most of us, it’s just not possible.

Here are 7 surprising ways you can make meetings more productive today…

1. Get rid of chairs

When was the last time you went to a meeting with no chairs?

One recent study found that people who worked while standing had higher levels of physiological arousal and were less defensive about their ideas.

It seemed that having a standing meeting made people get more excited and involved in the discussion, and they became more open and receptive to other people’s ideas.

2. Start with small talk

This may sound counter productive but Chris Hummel, CMO of Schneider Electric, believes that starting meetings with a little small talk can help attendees to engage more…

“Assuming there’s not a mass audience, invest the first three to five minutes on a personal and professional check in”.

Break the ice by personally checking in with everyone involved in the meeting. The more comfortable they feel, the more likely they will be to contribute their thoughts and ideas.

3. The Two Pizza Rule

If you’ve ever been to a large meeting with too many people in attendance, you’ll know how frustrating it can be.

It’s incredibly difficult to have a productive meeting when everyone has to shout over each other to be in with a chance of being heard.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously said that if a team couldn’t be fed with 2 pizzas, it was too big.

Try applying the 2 pizza rule to your meetings to improve communication.

4. Have a ‘meeting leader’

Make sure you define the meeting leader before, or at the beginning of a meeting.

Jill Duffy, author of GET ORGANIZED: How to Clean Up Your Messy Digital Life discusses her experiences of meeting leaders in this article for PC Mag

“The absolute worst meeting I ever attended had no leader, and about halfway through the meeting, I realized several parties involved thought I was supposed to be driving the meeting. It was at once infuriating and mortifying, not to mention completely unproductive. In another reckless scene, I once called a meeting, scheduled it, and fully intended to run it, only to have another colleague completely take it over—also irritating.”

5. Make meetings optional

If you trust your team, why not give them the responsibility of deciding whether or not they need to attend a meeting?

Jody Thompson, Co-Founder of the Results Only Work Environment movement, believes that the person calling the meeting should be responsible for persuading everyone that the meeting is the best use of their time.

“Meetings are one thing: a tool to get to results. If the tool is not doing the job of getting you to results, you’re using the wrong tool… Forcing people through a strong-arm management style (that meeting is mandatory!) to use the wrong tool to get the job done is poor management of the work.”

6. Be novel

Meetings are boring, am I right? But they don’t always have to be.

Richard Branson suggests adding a little novelty to your meetings to freshen things up and get people thinking in new ways.

“A change of scenery and a bit of fun does wonders for getting people thinking differently and loosening up!” – Richard Branson

Why not take your team out for a coffee or a stroll in a local park next time you hold a meeting? If nothing else, they’ll certainly appreciate the change of scenery!

7. Leave phones and laptops outside

There are few things more frustrating than discussing your ideas with someone who is not paying you their full attention.

Business writer and speaker Neil Fogarty thinks checking your phone and emails during meetings reflects badly on leaders…

“Here is the message leaders are really sending by not giving their full attention: I am so important that I have to be in this meeting but I can’t really be that bothered, I am so important that I HAVE to email people instead of listen to people and finally that I am so important that hey, I don’t have to justify myself here.”

Don’t use your phone or laptop for messaging (email, text or social networks) and don’t mindlessly browse the internet while someone’s talking. If you’re going to use your laptop, make sure you’re doing so productively by taking notes, or sharing information on your screen with others.

How do you get the most out of your meetings? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Photo Credit: georgivar via Compfight cc