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5 Tips to Make the Most Out of Modern Meetings

Posted on 9.26.2015

By Kelly Seelig, Blue Jeans Network 

Meetings almost never go as planned. Technical issues can put a glitch into meetings and unexpected circumstances like car trouble, home-related issues or illness can put a face-to-face meeting on hold.

When meetings do occur, other issues often arise, from attendee tardiness to lack of structure that turn meetings into time-consuming events. Despite these challenges, meetings are a staple of professional life, and face-to-face time is a huge boon for the decision-making process. Here are five tips that professionals can put to use to increase efficiency, boost productivity and take their meetings to the next level.

1. Weed Out the Non-Essentials

One of the most common meeting qualms is how much time they can potentially waste, especially if tasks are not completed or decisions are not made. This is particularly true when meetings call for all hands on deck—which is often unnecessary and can be avoided with the right planning and personnel allocation. Many prominent CEOs, such as Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and former Opsware CEO and current VC superstar Ben Horowitz, recognize this problem and address it directly. Instead of having team-wide meetings, they choose to have one-on-one meetings, drilling down so only the essential attendee is present.

This doesn’t mean company-wide meetings are never appropriate, but most meetings should only include those directly involved with the tasks at hand. Keep the invite list short and sweet and make sure to only include participants who can make a significant contribution or are crucial to the decision-making process. Everyone else can be briefed quickly, as necessary, afterward.

Avoid Distractions

Just as it’s important to limit the amount of people in each meeting, it’s important that everyone remains focused and engaged. The fewer distractions, the better. Challenge attendees, if possible, to keep their laptops closed and phones stowed away. Slowing down and simplifying things can actually increase productivity.

Facebook dynamo Sheryl Sandberg only needs a spiral-bound notebook—her primary tool during meetings to keep the agenda on track. With a list of discussion points and action items, she quickly gets to the crux of what meetings are about. If all items on her list are addressed in the first 10 minutes of an hour-long meeting, the meeting is done. Stop attempting to multitask and focus on the meeting at-hand—not only will meetings run faster and smoother, but everyone will be more engaged, collaborative and productive.

Don’t be Late, and Don’t Wait for Stragglers

The tardiness epidemic in team meetings has contributed to an estimated $37 billion lost every year. While all employees are guilty of this, CEOs, CTOs and founders are most often late to meetings. With key decision makers at the root of this problem, impose rules to make sure that all team members — from assistants to c-level executives — respect everyone’s time, by showing up on time. Additionally, this will be much easier to enforce if meetings include only the essential participants.

Keep Mondays (Mostly) Meeting-Free

It’s far from ideal to start the week off with a Monday schedule jam-packed with meetings. Currently, 41 percent of meetings happen on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so try limiting the majority of meetings to only two or three days of the week so other days are generally free for projects, deliverables and “real work.” Limit meetings on Mondays or try removing them entirely to encourage better focus and strengthen the impact of the meetings that are already scheduled on the calendar.

See Eye-to-Eye

Face-to-face collaboration is key to business productivity and being able to see eye-to-eye is paramount in the decision-making process. Since business is done with people it’s vital to build personal relationships with colleagues, teams and clients. Furthermore, evidence shows that there is much more to communication than just speaking—from body language to eye contact.

In today’s geographically dispersed business landscape, with distributed workforces and partners, it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain the meet-in-person status quo, but options like video conferencing make it possible to have virtual face-to-face meetings that mimic their real-life counterparts. Regardless of how participants meet, pay attention to all verbal and nonverbal cues to increase focus, boost engagement and enhance collaboration in meetings. 

Undoubtedly, meetings remain at the epicenter of professional life, and a few easy tactics can deliver big to make them matter more. Try implementing some — or all — of these tips to boost efficiency and productivity, save time and money and make the most out of every meeting.

Kelly Seelig is the V.P. of Marketing & Communications at Blue Jeans Network.

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