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5 Best Practices for Productive Meetings

Time is your team’s most valuable resource. Not only do unproductive meetings waste this precious commodity, but they reduce overall employee engagement and undercut morale.

Get your entire team on the same page with these best practices for productive meetings. The following five methods will make your meetings action-oriented and a valuable use of your team’s time.

1. Establish a Meeting Purpose and Agenda

The first rule for productive meetings is determining the purpose of the meeting. Typically, meetings can be categorized as follows:

1. Information Sharing – A one-way communication from the speaker to increase awareness on a topic.

2. Discussion – A conversation between participants to explore and share ideas.

3. Decision Making – Facilitated by the leader for the group to reach a decision.

4. Check-Ins – A quick dialogue by attendees to share updates and problem solve.

After determining the purpose of the meeting, ask yourself if a meeting is the necessary method to accomplish your goal. For example, if the goal is to share information, then sending an email may be a more appropriate course of action.

Once you have determined a purpose and that a meeting is the best course, devise an agenda. Outline what will be covered in the meeting, and the time it will take for a total meeting time. Share the agenda to the attendees beforehand. Ask them to review it and prepare or provide feedback in advance.

2. Carefully Select a Leader and Attendees

All meetings need a designated leader who is in charge of ensuring that the group sticks to the agenda. When the discussion veers off topic, it is up to the leader to redirect the conversation back to the bespoke topics at hand.

When inviting attendees, remember that the more people there are, the more likely it is the meeting will lose its pointedness. Be selective about who you invite to a meeting. This helps the meeting stay focused, increases engagement, and imparts the greatest impact on its participants. Further, it prevents unnecessary personnel from wasting their time in a meeting not pertinent to them or their job role. If a key player cannot attend, the meeting’s purpose will not be realized and should be rescheduled.

3. Recognition, Feedback and Concerns

Good leaders recognize the employees at the front of the team and use meetings as an opportunity to praise good work.

Meetings are also a good time to connect with co-workers and learn from them. Ask for feedback during and following the meeting; your coworkers may offer a new perspective that leads to valuable insight. This could provide a fix for a group problem on a certain project or be an observation that adds to your own management acumen.

Encourage your team to share their concerns during a meeting. Employees may be able to spot a potential stumbling block on a project that you had not foreseen. Hearing out everyone’s concerns shows a desire to understand what the front-line workers encounter during their day-to-day responsibilities. By listening to the voiced concerns, you can find solutions to their problems and improve productivity while showing them that you take their feelings seriously.

4. Assign Action Items and Clarify Takeaways

Discussing new ideas and developing improvements is futile if they don’t translate into tangible, real-world outcomes. Make the connection between what is discussed and what is done with that information by creating and delegating action items. Action items are a list of specific tasks to be given to the correct people and that must be completed on a given timeline.

Ideally, action items will be added to the meeting agenda and notes, so all attendees have access to this information at a later point.

Finally, clarify the key takeaways of the meeting. Reiterate the core points to help build momentum for knowledge sharing, strategy formulation and team collaboration.

5. Set Team Ground Rules

Following the best practices for productive meetings means establishing a set of meeting ground rules that guide the conduct of all meetings. Incorporate the whole team in the drafting of these ground rules; your employees may share valuable insights through how they feel about meetings and their ideas on how to improve them.

You may find that employees feel pressured to join every meeting they are invited to, despite their attendance not always being necessary or even a productive use of their time. Giving employees the option to say no to meetings not pertinent to them will increase the overall levels of productivity and reduce stress.

Though many solutions to resolve meeting ineffectiveness are quick fixes – such as forbidding the use of cell phones and laptops to increase attendee focus – some solutions are harder to develop since they are connected to deeper dysfunctions.

If you find that poor time management or inefficient communication are major contributors to meeting ineffectiveness, use this discovery to your advantage. Address these underlying dysfunctions to enhance meetings alongside the overall productivity and collaboration in other areas as well.

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