Not all meetings are productive. Sometimes you’ll achieve a lot, other times you’ll feel like you’ve wasted hours of your life. If you want to make the most of your time, continue reading this article as I share with you 10 essential tips for more productive meetings.
Key Tips To More Productive Meetings
- Make your meeting objective crystal clear
You’re meeting for a specific reason. Make that objective clear to everyone, so expectations are met and no time is wasted. Effective meetings simply aren’t possible when there’s no structure. And the thing is, you can’t have a good meeting structure if you don’t have a clear objective.
So, the first thing you need to do to have productive meetings is to figure out what the meeting is going to be all about:
What do you hope to achieve by the end of the meeting? Do you need to come up with an important decision? Do you need to gather ideas so you can present it to the higher-ups?
Once you’ve figured out the proper objective, let all the participants know so they too can prepare for the meeting. Having a clear purpose for the meeting helps keep everyone on track which leads to much more productive meetings.
- Know what kind of meeting you’re going to have
There are many types of meetings. Some are crucial to a company’s success while others are nothing but time-wasters. Let’s go through 5 types of meetings that are actually worthwhile:
- Decision-making meetings
For this type of meeting to be productive, you need to have a couple of key ‘ingredients’ in place. First, you need to make sure your group actually includes the decision maker(s). Second, your audience needs to have sufficient knowledge about the issue at hand.
Without these two ingredients, you could very well be wasting your time. Why? Because if the decision maker is not in the room or the people you’re speaking with have no clue about the issue, then there’s really no point to having the meeting in the first place, is there? You have a bunch of people who’ll contribute nothing to the discussion and you don’t have anyone with the power to approve or veto the plans.
- Problem-solving meetings
This is another common type of meeting. When something needs to be resolved and one person alone can’t do it, then a problem-solving meeting becomes necessary. In most cases, the solution won’t be so clear cut, so brainstorming is going to be essential.
Depending on the nature of the problem, it may be best to have a group of people with different backgrounds and expertise. That way, you’ll collectively come up with more ideas which may ultimately lead to the best solution.
- Brainstorming meetings
This may be similar to problem-solving meetings, but brainstorming meetings can take on an entirely different focus. Instead of brainstorming to solve an existing crisis, you can have brainstorming sessions to prevent issues from happening in the future. This type of meeting can also be used to figure out the best course of action to grow a business.
Brainstorming can be done individually or as a team. For more productive meetings, you can ask your participants to brainstorm on their own. Then during the actual meeting, everyone can comment on other people’s ideas. Together, you can come up with truly unique ideas!
Check out this TED Talk on brainstorming:
- Planning meetings
Complex projects require a lot of careful planning. And attention to detail is critical for planning meeting success. For productive planning meetings, make sure everyone knows the agenda beforehand. This way they can prepare and be active participants in the meeting. You don’t want people to show up empty-handed or unprepared; it’s just going to make the meeting drag on unnecessarily.
- Informing meetings
This type of meeting is straightforward. Usually, there’s no exchange of ideas, just one person (or a few) telling everyone about something they’ve reached a resolution on. Perhaps the listeners may be affected in one way or another, some more than others. You can use PowerPoint to help get your point across. You’re stating facts and educating everyone on how best to put the information to good use… which brings us to our next tip for more productive meetings.
- Use PowerPoint or your favorite presentation software
Not all meetings require you to fire up a PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Slide presentation. But if you really need to convey some very important points that your audience must absolutely understand, then presentation slides are an essential communication tool.
You might have heard about how Jeff Bezos, the CEO of ecommerce giant Amazon, has banned PowerPoint in their executive meetings. You may or may not agree with his PPT replacement (narrative memos). But if you know that using PowerPoint won’t be counterproductive and will, in fact, add value to your meeting, then use it!
Presentation software is just a tool – you can’t expect it to do your work. See, that’s the problem with most presenters – they copy and paste their content into PowerPoint and think that’s enough to get through the meeting. But people hate that kind of stuff. It’s boring, it’s a huge time-sink, and it’s highly ineffective. You can’t just read off the slides and expect people to be wowed by the information you’re presenting. You have to do more than that.
When it comes to using PowerPoint in meetings, you need to make sure it actually makes your content come to life. Engage your audience by using your slides as an effective visual aid. Impress them with your knowledge. Wow them with timely animations that emphasize the most important points in your presentation.
No matter which presentation software you use for your meetings, you should always keep in mind that your slides are there to support your message. They’re not the ‘star’ of the whole meeting. You – and your message – are.
- Use a PowerPoint template to help save time
Designing slides can take a lot of time. If you don’t want to spend hours or even days poring over your slides, then consider using a PowerPoint template instead. You’re probably thinking in your mind right now how ugly those free built-in PPT templates are. You probably recognize all of them – perhaps it’s what you and your colleagues have been using all this time!
Well, it’s time to put a stop to it. There are plenty of attractive templates on the web, but most of the good ones can set you back by a good amount. If you’re not interested in spending money on templates, I’ve got great news for you. Head on over to our Template Hub and you’ll see all sorts of high-quality templates. These are all FREE. Simply create a free account and start downloading your favorite templates.
We’ve got meeting agenda templates to get you off to a good start. You can also download plenty of map templates, corporate and business templates, organization and planning templates, and so much more!
Check out this screenshot of some free templates:
So, if you’re wondering how PowerPoint templates can possibly lead to productive meetings.. well, by using templates, you free up time to work on your actual meeting agenda. You’ll be able to fine-tune the things you need to present during your meeting, study for whatever task’s been assigned to you, and generally, be better prepared for your meeting.
- Go to the meeting well-prepared
It’s better to be prepared especially if you’re in charge of the meeting. What kind of meeting are you going to have? Who’s going to be there? What will you talk about? How long should the meeting last? Do you need to come up with an important decision by the end of the meeting?
If you come ill-prepared to your meeting, then chances are you’re not going to be productive. You’ll be fidgeting on your seat. You’ll probably sweat buckets when you realize everyone’s prepared but you. You won’t be able to focus 100% on the meeting because you’ll be on your phone trying to find some good answers from your friend, Mr. Google.
- Is the meeting absolutely necessary?
Meeting just for the sake of having a meeting is counterproductive. Why? Because meetings take up people’s time. Time that could be better spent doing something more productive. Think about alternatives. If it’s not absolutely necessary to have a physical meeting, then perhaps it’s better to just have a quick online chat with your team. That way, people can still do their jobs while keeping an eye on the conversation.
Meetings cost the company a lot of money. People get paid to work and be productive, not to sit around and pretend to have a serious discussion in the boardroom. When you meet just because, you’re actually hurting the company.
If you don’t believe me, you better check out this meeting cost calculator. Find out if meeting just for the sake of having a meeting is truly a good idea!
- Invite the right group of people
This right here is one of the leading contributors to unproductive and inefficient meetings. People who get invited to attend meetings when they have no business being there in the first place can cause issues in the workplace.
Let’s say you need to solve a pressing IT problem. To make the meeting productive, you need to call the right people. Don’t ask people who’s got nothing to do with IT to attend the meeting. You’ll most likely get a bunch of suggestions that may or may not solve the problem. After going through a process of elimination, you’ll probably realize that most ideas from the non-IT crowd will do more harm than good.
Obviously, this is just an example and everything will ultimately depend on the nature of the problem. In some cases, a mixed group may do more harm than good. In other cases, they may help speed up the process and find the right solutions quickly.
Weigh everything first before you send out invites to your meeting. Only invite those who will actually add value to the meeting.
- Have an end in sight
Can you imagine sitting in a meeting with no apparent end in sight? Me neither. And neither will your participants. Before your meeting even begins, analyze what’s on the agenda. Then make an educated guess on how long the meeting is going to run.
If you have a pre-determined time slot for the meeting, then make sure it’s enough to cover everything on the agenda. You may be constrained by time, so make every minute count. Set some rules if necessary, so you can get to the finish line in a timely manner.
- Meet outside the office
If you and your team always meet at the same place in the office, it can get old pretty fast. Instead of inspiring people to contribute to the meetings, people’s minds may wander to some other, more exciting places. So, why not give them what they want and hold your next meeting in some other place?
There are plenty of cafes or coworking spaces where you can book a meeting room for a couple of hours. You can also try doing a walking meeting, so people get a whiff of fresh air!
A change of scenery can do a lot of wonders for your meetings. Instead of facing a bunch of grumpy and bored-looking teammates, you’ll have them bursting with excitement and creativity! They’ll probably have a lot more to say during your outings, so make sure someone writes down notes!
- Encourage everyone to be punctual
It’s tough to be productive when you’ve got latecomers crashing the meeting and destroying everyone’s train of thought. Imagine trying to say something important and someone knocks on the door or goes to their seats noisily. It’s annoying, isn’t it? It’s even worse if it’s key individuals who are late as everybody else is forced to wait for them.
Productive meetings needs everyone’s cooperation. If you’ve organized the meeting yourself, then make sure you go to the venue early. It’s part of being prepared. You can calm your nerves and practice what you’re going to say before anyone else gets to the boardroom. Then send out a friendly reminder to everyone to be punctual, so the meeting can start at the proper time.
Looking forward to productive meetings?
If it’s your first time leading a meeting, then these tips for more productive meetings should get you off to a good start. Remember, meetings are vital to a company’s success. Therefore, it’s important that you make your meetings as productive as possible. Don’t dawdle and waste time. Instead make the most of every minute to ensure your meeting objective is met.