5 Secrets to Running Effective Meetings Everyone Will Want to Attend

Meetings are a necessary part of working life, but all too often they end up being unproductive time-sinks that leave participants feeling drained and frustrated. A study by Atlassian found that the average employee attends 62 meetings per month, half of which are considered a waste of time. This translates to 31 hours per month spent in unproductive meetings.

So why do organizations continue to hold so many meetings despite chronic complaints about their ineffectiveness? Part of the problem is that meetings are seen as the default way to collaborate, share information, and make decisions. But without proper planning and facilitation, meetings often lack clear objectives and devolve into unfocused discussions that fail to achieve anything meaningful.

The Benefits of Effective Meetings

When done right, meetings can be incredibly valuable for aligning teams, sparking innovation, and driving projects forward. Effective meetings enable collaboration, build relationships, and ensure everyone is on the same page. They can also be energizing and motivating, leaving participants with a sense of shared purpose and accomplishment.

Research by the Harvard Business Review found that high-quality meetings are associated with higher levels of employee engagement, productivity, and even company performance. In a survey of 182 senior managers, 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient, but also agreed that they are a critical tool for collaboration and getting work done.

5 Research-Backed Ways to Improve Meeting Productivity

So how can organizations hold more productive and enjoyable meetings? Here are five evidence-based strategies:

  1. Have a clear agenda and objective. Every meeting should have a specific purpose and desired outcome. Share an agenda in advance so participants can prepare and stay focused.

  2. Limit attendees to essential participants. Smaller meetings tend to be more engaging and productive. Only invite those who really need to be there and will add value.

  3. Start and end on time. Respect people's time by sticking to the scheduled duration. Aim to end a few minutes early to give people time to transition to their next commitment.

  4. Encourage participation. Create an inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing. Use facilitation techniques like round-robin discussions or breakout groups for larger meetings.

  5. Follow up with clear action items. End meetings by summarizing key decisions and next steps. Send out a brief recap with assigned action items so everyone knows who is responsible for what.

Ensuring Long-Term Meeting Success

Implementing these strategies can significantly improve the quality and productivity of meetings in the short term. But to ensure long-term success, organizations need to make effective meetings a cultural norm and priority.

This starts with training employees, especially managers and meeting leaders, on how to plan and run successful meetings. Teaching facilitation skills, agenda setting, and time management can go a long way in consistently holding better meetings.

It's also important to periodically assess and optimize the company's overall meeting rhythm and norms. Do recurring meetings still serve their purpose or have they outlived their usefulness? Are there opportunities to streamline the number and length of meetings? Soliciting feedback from employees and experimenting with new formats can help fine-tune an organization's meeting culture over time.

Emerging Meeting Practices

As workplaces continue to evolve, so do the ways we meet and collaborate. Virtual and hybrid meetings are now commonplace, presenting new challenges and opportunities for engagement.

Some companies are exploring new meeting formats like walking meetings, stand-up meetings, or even "silent meetings" where participants write down their thoughts and ideas instead of speaking. Others are leveraging technology like AI transcription and virtual whiteboards to enhance the meeting experience and follow-up.

The key is to remain open to experimentation and continuously iterate based on what works best for the team and organization. By prioritizing effective meetings as a critical tool for collaboration and getting work done, companies can unlock the full potential of their talent and achieve better business outcomes.

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