The goal of any team meeting is to share information, have valuable discussions and get everyone on the same page. However, surveys consistently show that employees feel meetings waste too much time that could be spent on more productive efforts.
Company leaders can combat this problem by prioritizing efficiency in any necessary meetings and eliminating unnecessary ones. Not sure where or how to start making cuts to the number of mandatory employee meetings you have?
Here, the experts of Forbes Coaches Council share 15 effective ways to safely reduce the number of meetings your employees are forced to attend without facing negative consequences or problematic lapses in communication.
1. Know If A Meeting Is Tactical Or Strategic
The issue may not be the quantity but the quality of the meetings. Meetings should accomplish real work and feel valuable. Make sure everyone is clear on the type of meeting you are having (tactical versus strategic) and never mix the two. Be clear about what has to be accomplished before you leave and what the cost will be if it isn’t. Increasing quality will lower frustrations over quantity. – Cindy Barber, The Dash Group
2. Consider Another Form Of Communication
Plan ahead to know if you actually need a meeting or if another form of communication (phone call, chat, email, text) would suffice. Communicate specific goals, understand who is essential to reaching the desired outcome and decide exactly how much time is needed; do not default to taking 30 minutes if it can be done in 15 minutes. – Monisha Toteja, Dynamic Speaking
3. Start With An Objective Before Inviting Attendees
Make sure you start with an objective for every meeting, then decide who to invite. Don’t invite people to meetings who won’t help further the objective of the meeting. Many people created a lot of meetings to stay connected during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is time to look at all of those and evaluate if they are needed. Redesign meetings to suit the new reality. A lot can be eliminated or streamlined. – Sandra Oliver, Impact-Coaches Inc.
4. Challenge The Premise Of Every Meeting
Meetings waste time when they happen too soon, too late or aren’t required in the first place. A great meeting will rank among the most productive time you invest all week. Anything that doesn’t require dynamic interaction between knowledgeable people who are prepared and empowered to make the decision or commit the resources should be handled via email. – April Armstrong, AHA Insight
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5. Write A Daily Brief In A Shared Document
Use a Google Doc so that others can add or comment as they want. Then, only use meetings for important connections and to bring everyone together to check in and see how they are. You will cut down on most of the wasted time it takes to “get to” meetings (even online), the time it takes to wait for everyone and the number of questions or thoughts that could be messaged instead. – Jen Croneberger, JLynne Consulting Group
6. Calculate The Cost Of Resources Spent
Calculate roughly how much a meeting of X number of people for X number of minutes costs as a reminder of the financial cost of meetings. We don’t pay out of pocket for each meeting, so it is easy to forget the resources spent: time, money and emotion. Reminding ourselves of the resources involved in organizing and attending meetings can help orient us toward using them more sparingly and efficiently. – Palena Neale, Ph.D, unabridged
7. Make Them Short And Goal-Focused
Most meetings can be short and goal-focused. Ask yourself if a meeting can be avoided by sending a few emails or having conversations with one other person. If you do need a meeting, state clear meeting goals and outcomes up front and invite only those who can help accomplish the goals. In the end, survey participants about what worked and what can be improved and heed the feedback. – Felice Tilin, GroupWorksConsulting LLC
8. Use A ‘Lean Thinking’ Approach
Treat your meetings as you would any other process and use the “lean thinking” approach. Evaluate your past meetings to identify inefficiencies. Define the goal or decision that must be made at the end of the meeting. Invite team members on a “value-added” basis (i.e., critical or nice-to-have) strictly. Keep the meeting focused on a single purpose. Measure the effectiveness of the meeting in relation to the goal. – Yamini Virani, Celebrus Business Strategies
9. Invite Only Those Who Must Actively Participate
When invited, many employees will simply accept any meeting on their calendar. Instead, I encourage everyone to ask two questions before accepting: What is the purpose of this meeting? What is my role? If you are there just to be an observer or to provide context, you can ask to submit your data in advance. Only accept meeting invitations that necessitate your active participation. – Kirsten Meneghello, Illumination Coaching LLC
10. Create A Definite Agenda
Make meetings productive for all attendees. Create a definite agenda with pre-reading and pre-work requirements clearly highlighted. The meetings should not be to brainstorm but to make concrete decisions. When attendees come prepared for the agenda, meetings will be short, specific and produce measurable output. – Pritha Dubey, Success Vitamin
11. Build A Culture Of Cohesive Teams
Cohesive teams trust. They are intentional about the alignment of their energy and purposeful in making the best use of meeting time by discussing ideas and having productive conflict. Leaders who champion this mindset with their teams will find that employees are more engaged, meeting time is more efficient and excellence is maximized. – Lori Harris, Harris Whitesell Consulting
12. Focus On The Exceptions
The first area of exception is focused on where we are falling behind and need the help of the group to recover. The second area of exception is about where we are far exceeding our expectations and what we can learn from this to apply to the rest of the business. Meetings that focus on exceptions are focused on outcomes, not just status! – Brad Cousins, Ingage Human Capital Strategies
13. Appoint Someone To Take Notes
Hold minimal meetings and always have an agenda. Ensure that someone is there to take notes and keep the conversation on-topic. Time is often wasted discussing irrelevant things that don’t need to be discussed. – Rebecca Patterson, Rebecca Patterson
14. Don’t Force Too Many Meetings
Try not to “force-feed” your groups too many meetings. When you do meet, ask for feedback about the meeting by using a light survey to ask questions such as: Did you use this meeting to become more productive in your role? Did this meeting provide insights or help to solve problems that need to be solved? How often should we have this meeting? With simple questions, participants can reveal needed improvements. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
15. Eliminate Or Consolidate Redundant Meetings
Identify and eliminate redundant meetings, then cluster the remaining meetings. If several people are involved in multiple meetings covering the same topics each week, look for ways to combine the meetings’ agendas and reduce the drag on their time. In addition, try to schedule as many of the necessary meetings as possible on just one or two days of the week. This will give teams more time to complete tasks without interruption. – Billy Williams, Archegos