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How to Ensure Meetings are Useful and Productive

I feel that I know all there is to know about meetings. I have to admit, they are an essential part of work. Sometimes they are where ideas are generated and goals are set. But believe me when I say that, meetings can also waste a whole lot of time and leave people more confused than before the meeting started. I’ve been to hundreds of meetings like that. The answer to this problem is to streamline all the meetings to ensure they are useful and productive.

Meetings are not always necessary

While meetings can be a great way to set goals and figure out what needs to be done, they’re not always necessary.  If you are in the middle of an ongoing project, having a meeting for everyone to say “this is what I was supposed to be doing, I’m doing it” is pretty much a waste of everyoneís time. Before you have a meeting, look at your goals and priorities and see if it’s really needed.  You may be able to get by with a phone call or an email to ask how everyone is doing on their goals.  

Stick to your agenda

Set an agenda, make sure everyone knows it, then stick to it. In large meetings, especially brainstorming sessions, it’s easy for one person to go off on a tangent and pull everyone else along with them. While there is a chance you’ll come up with a decent idea, you’ll also end up wasting a lot of time.

When planning a meeting, set a clear agenda of what needs to be covered; feel free to be very specific and detailed. Put your agenda in writing and make sure everyone has a copy and knows what is going on. If something comes up that isn’t on the agenda, write it down and tell them that it’s a good idea and will be discussed later, but right now you must stick to what’s on the paper.  

Look out for dead weight

When setting up a meeting, it’s common to want to include people. It may be that you want to expand your pool of ideas and viewpoints, or you want to include new or less utilized office members. It could also be to include other organizations. While this can have benefits, it can also lead to meetings that drag on and could even turn into a battleground for conflicting viewpoints.  Before you send out a reminder for a meeting, make sure everyone is needed and will not simply be dead weight.

The biggest time-waster

The biggest time-waster at meetings is usually in the very beginning. Often people are late or want to chat and socialize. The best way to get rid of time-waste in a meeting is to ensure that it starts on time. If people want to socialize, they can come early. Also, don’t wait for late people to show up. This will help save time and encourage them to be prompt in the future.  

After the meeting

After the meeting, make sure everyone gets a copy of what went on at the meeting. This ensures everyone is aware of what the goal is, and what their part is on the overall picture.  This will also help those people catch up who showed up late or couldn’t make the meeting.  In addition, it’s something you can use to inform people who didn’t need to be included in the meeting, but need to know what is going on.

By streamlining your meetings, you can not only save time, but also increase productivity.  If everyone knows what’s expected and what they’re doing, they’re going to be more effective workers.

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