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We have all had the unfortunate experience of sitting through ineffective meetings. Articles, blogs, whitepapers, and books abound on this topic. People meet in person, on the phone, and over the web. There are daily department meetings, weekly sales meetings, quarterly strategy meetings, annual budget meetings, meetings about meetings and more.

Yet, despite this, business people spend an average of 8 hours per week in meetings and report that at least 75% of this time is not productive (according to a New York Times article). That’s over 300 hours of unproductive meeting time per worker per year!

What more can I say that hasn’t already been said…probably not much, but I’m going to put my own spin on this productivity killer for businesses of all sizes. Here are 4 tips that you can use to decrease the unproductive time spent in meetings and give your employees more time out of meetings to get work done!

Tip #1: Don’t Meet!

Before you send that calendar meeting request or schedule a recurring meeting, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this meeting necessary?
  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • What are the expected outcomes?
  • If the meeting is to share information, is there a better way to share that information?

Chances are, some of your regular meetings can be eliminated, and for those that can’t there’s a good chance they can be reduced in frequency, duration or necessary participants.

Tip #2: Set Goals for the Meeting

Know your goals for the meeting. If you can’t clearly define them, cancel the meeting. You can always schedule another one once you have a clearer picture of the goals.

Try this exercise:

Before planning the agenda for the meeting, write down a phrase or several phrases to complete the sentence: By the end of the meeting, I want the group to…

Depending on the focus of your meeting, your ending to the sentence might include phrases such as: …decide to outsource or bring talent in-house, …identify the top 5 features of our newest product or service, …define 3 ideas for increasing our sales, …leave with an action plan, or …identify the primary bottlenecks in our production process.

Tip #3: Distribute an Agenda Beforehand

How many times have you gone to a meeting without knowing what the meeting is about or why you need to be there? Distributing an agenda beforehand allows you to clearly communicate the meeting goals and ensure that all participants are prepared for the meeting…which brings me to Tip #4.

Tip #4: Assign Meeting Preparation

Giving participants something to prepare for the meeting assigns new significance to attendees. When people are expected to present ideas or work product to their co-workers, they become more engaged in the process. For example, for problem-solving meetings, have the group read the background information necessary to get down to business in the meeting and have each group member think of at least one possible solution to the problem.

Bottom Line

Meetings are a necessary part of conducting business, but they do not necessarily need to reduce productivity or your business’s bottom line.

By doing these 4 things, you will see an improvement in productivity. If you don’t, you can always have another meeting to discuss it.

Which reminds me, I’ve got to get to a meeting.

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