Company meetings always seem to be a popular topic of conversation, largely due to the fact that nobody enjoys them and yet we’re constantly holding them. The average white collar employee attends sixty meetings every month, each lasting an average of two hours. According to a recent study, less than half of these meetings end up yielding productive results, which equates to a total of four full working days each employee is spending in fruitless meetings every month. That’s four days your employees could be spending doing literally anything else. Needless to say, this is costing businesses everywhere a lot of money. Luckily there are a number of things you can do to cut the extraneous costs of these meetings and save some time in the process.
1. Limit the Number of Meetings You’re Holding
The first step you should take when evaluating your company meeting structure is limiting the number of meetings you’re holding. Often times, departments hold weekly meetings for no other reason than because “that’s how it’s always been done.” This mentality can be toxic to your company in many aspects, but especially when it comes to regular meetings. When it comes down to it, none of your employees should be attending more than 8 meetings per week on average. The fewer the better, of course, but if anybody is exceeding that number odds are they aren’t getting a whole lot done when it comes down to their actual job responsibilities. Now, keep in mind this doesn’t pertain to employees whose jobs revolve specifically around holding meetings, such as certain HR professionals and trainers. Chances are, if you look closely at the majority of your meetings you’ll see many of them can be combined, limited, or even eliminated altogether.
2. Shorten the Length of your Meetings
Perhaps all of your meetings are absolutely necessary and there’s no avoiding that. If that’s the case, rather than limiting the number of meetings you’re holding see if it’s possible to shorten them. I think we’ve all been in meetings that get so far off track, it’s hard to remember what everyone was meeting to discuss in the first place. The best thing you can do in this scenario is to come into each meeting with a structured agenda and follow it closely. Have a set goal that you have to reach or problem that has to be solved and do your best to keep the conversation heading in the right direction. Send the agenda out to each attendee before the meeting begins so they have no doubt about what you’re meeting to discuss. For maximum productivity, no meeting should run longer than ninety minutes max, and keeping them under an hour is ideal.
One big contributing factor to excessively long meetings is inconsistent start and end times. Try to start your meetings exactly on time, every time, in order to avoid wasting the time of your more punctual employees. Furthermore, if your meeting is scheduled to go from 10 to 10:30, actually try ending at 10:30. There is no better way to lose interest and productivity in a meeting than going over the allotted time. If you find you’re doing this consistently, try the above example of creating an agenda and sticking to it precisely. If that still isn’t doing the trick, schedule your meetings for a full hour. This way all attendees can plan their days around a lengthy meeting and won’t get antsy if your meeting starts cutting into their work time.
If you’re genuinely worried about how long the meetings within your company are going, there is another rather extreme option you can consider (though keep in mind, “extreme” in the workplace is rather relative). A friend of mine works for a company that has been unsuccessful in shortening the length of their department-wide meetings. They have put in place every method that I’ll cover in this blog and more, and nothing seemed to work. Finally, they had to resort to holding stand-up meetings in the stairwell of their building. The idea was that if everyone was slightly uncomfortable and a bit chilly, they would get to the root of their meetings much quicker than usual, and their meeting times dropped significantly. Everybody involved is now so eager for the meeting to end, they usually cover the scheduled topics within fifteen minutes. My more conventional ideas should work out just fine for you, but if not it might not be a bad idea to keep this story in the back of your mind (if only to playfully threaten your team with).
3) Ensure High Sound and Picture Quality
This step is only relevant if you’re holding regular audio or visual meetings, but poor tech can actually result in a surprising amount of lost productivity over time. If you find you’re spending five or ten minutes setting up conference calls every week, that time can add up significantly over time. Make sure everybody knows how to do this, too, in case you’re gone for any reason. Furthermore, make sure the quality of these calls is good. Having to ask the attendees to repeat themselves again and again not only takes up valuable time, but also derails the energy of the meeting. In the end, splurging on higher quality technology will really pay off in the long run if you’re an organization that holds a lot with audio and visual meetings.
4) Engage Your Employees
Keeping your employees engaged during your meetings is key to ensuring the content is understood by everybody involved. As we discussed previously, it’s easy to get off topic and it isn’t uncommon for side conversations to pop up here and there. This can get tricky with everybody in the room offering their own thoughts and opinions, but with time you’ll find a good balance on how to navigate these issues. It’s also important to engage with your attendees before and after the meeting occurs. We already covered that it’s important to pass out an agenda to everyone before the meeting begins, but it’s also necessary to follow up with everyone after the meeting’s over. Each person involved should leave your meeting with a plan of action, and you should follow up with them to ensure they know what that plan of action is and that they’re putting it in motion.
Meetings are necessary to run a business, and the workplace will probably never see them completely eradicated. However, if we’re smarter about how, when (and even where) we hold them, we can increase productivity and in doing so save some time and money.