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Make it Count - How to Host a Productive Meeting

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a cold meeting room, staring at the clock, wondering “Why was this not just an email?” According to a 2017 blog post in the Harvard Business Review, this feeling is not unique. In fact, with the executives they surveyed, 71% of respondents viewed meetings as “unproductive and inefficient.” So how do we stop this inefficient use of time and make meetings more productive? Let’s look at how you can start creating collaborative events that take less time, get more done and leave the entire room with a complete understanding of what’s happening. 


When scheduling meetings, the most important question to ask is: WHY are we meeting? While this may seem like a no-brainer, meetings are often called without a true end goal in mind. If you don’t have an objective reason to meet then it’s likely not a necessary use of your time. Just because you have a scheduled team meeting each Tuesday morning, doesn’t mean that they’re actually necessary. It is better to cancel an unnecessary meeting and allow team members to use this time to be productive, instead of assembling without a clear mission or objective to accomplish.

Consider starting each meeting with the phrase: “Our Objective today is ______.”  This aligns everyone’s focus and also provides a reference point to keep the meeting’s discussion on track.


Make sure everyone you need is at the table. You’ve likely been in a meeting where the key stakeholder isn’t there and the meeting either concludes without a final decision or (even worse) a decision is made that the key stakeholder will later overturn, creating the need to meet again and restart. When scheduling, consider WHO should be at the table (and even maybe who isn’t needed) and be cognizant of getting all the right stakeholders included.

And yes, we’re fully aware that those pesky politics play a role in who you bring to the table - so consider that part too. Assemble a team at the table with the knowledge, skill set, and decision making authority needed to accomplish the established meeting objective. 


Know your next steps.  As your closing time nears, take a moment to announce that the ending of the allotted meeting time is 5 minutes away. Take that break in the conversation as an opportunity to recap and highlight next steps. Refer back to the objective established at the beginning of the meeting and determine whether this objective has been achieved. Providing those in your meeting with direct “next steps” allows for both clarity and accountability. If it’s appropriate, you may even find a follow-up email beneficial in keeping everyone on the same page. 


Remember - meetings don’t have to be a time suck in your day. Use the above steps - establish a clear meeting objective, have the right people at the table, and establish key takeaways - to turn your mundane meetings into truly collaborative sessions. In fact, consider even renaming them in this way in office communications! We hope following these steps allow your teams to find out how much more can be accomplished every day. 


About the Author: Marie Stacks (President of Boost Midwest) strives to lead teams through the challenge of change onward to the thrill of success. With a decade of experience in project management, systems integration and process improvement, she has provided companies both small and corporate level with expertise on how to rock the boat without tipping it over. It takes unique skills to be able to lead through change, but when you succeed in doing so, the reward is always greater than the risk.


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