How to Get the Most Out of Your Meetings

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Gathering your team in one place to brainstorm new ideas or disseminate information seems like a good idea in theory.

In practice, however, meetings are often nothing more than a waste of time.

Employees are easily distracted — and for good reason. They may be thinking about the work they had to put on hold while they sit at the table. If workers are staring blankly at walls or not-so-discretely checking their phones, the problem isn’t their behavior — it’s your inability to hold their attention.

As many as 38 percent of employees admit to daydreaming during meetings and conference calls, according to recent research conducted by Klaxoon. While some may argue companies simply have too darn many meetings for their own good, Klaxoon’s research suggests the culprits aren’t frequency or length. Rather, the key is simply running the meeting efficiently.

“Well-run, efficient meetings are certainly a boost to productivity and are integral to the day-to-day of high-performing teams,” says Matthieu Bucher, CEO of Klaxoon. “They are a place where [people] share information and knowledge, build consensus, and make decisions.”

Oh No — Not Another Meeting

If your meetings are rarely productive, that can have a significant impact on employee happiness and productivity, especially in busy offices where every minute counts. Twenty-two percent of respondents to the Klaxoon survey reported that most of their office meetings were a waste of time.

What makes these meetings wastes of time? Generally, Bucher says, it’s one of two factors:

  1. Meeting goals are never clearly established, leading to a lack of focus or frequent digressions away from the most pressing topics.
  2. Participation is limited, and people are either not motivated to engage or feel they can’t actively take part in the decision-making process.

“To combat this, every meeting should have a set agenda and a strong facilitator to keep things on topic and ensure no one individual dominates discussions,” Bucher says. “Activities such as quizzes and group brainstorms can [also] make meetings more successful. If every participant can easily share their ideas and have a say, you see a drastic change in team and meeting engagement.”

If your meeting gives workers any opportunity to check out, rest assured they will do exactly that.

“One of the main distractors is the fact employees bring their own devices to meetings and will use these to ease boredom or fill the void if they do not feel included,” Bucher notes.

One easy way around this is to incorporate employees’ devices into the meetings. For example, you could design in-meeting activities that employees access via their mobile devices and laptops.

The Benefits of Collaboration

If employees feel that their opinion isn’t valued or that it isn’t their place to speak up in a meeting, they will withdraw and focus on other things. The best way to get full participation is to create an environment where all participants truly have a voice

Your employees want to collaborate. In fact, 57 percent of the people surveyed by Klaxoon said collaboration is integral to their success at work. Among millennials, that figure is even higher at 64 percent. It’s easy to turn meetings into productive, efficient uses of time when you actively include employees — because that’s something they already want to be doing.

Meetings that bring together diverse employee populations can also help to break down walls between departments, driving increased collaboration across the organization.

“Effective meetings help to break down silos, guaranteeing a fluid flow of bottom-up information that permeates throughout teams all across an organization,” Bucher says. “Collaborating efficiently in meetings just leads to great teamwork.”

Employees will be happier, more productive, and more focused when they are asked to participate in meetings and other gatherings. Building a collaborative culture at your company is the first step toward meeting success.

Read more in Business Communication

Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.