Are there so many meetings in your organisation that, quite frankly, it’s stopping you from getting on with the job? And are those meetings dynamic powerhouses, or is the only action of the clock watching variety? Research in the US suggests that the average employee attends an incredible 62 meetings per month, but 52 per cent believe that those meetings are, in fact, a waste of time. Meetings have been part of the world of commerce almost since the dawn of time. And as a means of communication, information sharing, collaboration and problem solving, they are hard to beat. With so many meetings going on in your business, is it possible to make them more productive? Yes, is the short answer and here’s how.

Clarity of purpose

What’s the meeting for? What outcome do you want to achieve? Just because that project team meeting was already scheduled in your diary doesn’t mean that you have to go ahead if there is no clear purpose. The essential starting point is the goal of the meeting. A clear purpose will not only inform the agenda, it will also influence who should be invited to attend – you don’t always have to invite the entire team.

Early dissemination of information

For meetings to be as effective as possible, it’s a good idea to circulate the agenda and any supporting papers or information well in advance. This gives attendees an opportunity to consider the issues beforehand. They will then come to the meeting better prepared and more able to make insightful contributions.

Keep it short

How many meetings have you attended that have gone on much longer than needs be? Frustrating, isn’t it? If you want to ensure that meetings in your business are productive then keep them short. The average person has an attention span of only 15 minutes. Yes, that’s right – just 15 minutes before you start daydreaming or looking out the window. Keep your meetings as short as possible by using timed agendas, effective chairing and by avoiding large group meetings with too many participants.

Develop accountable actions and clear outcomes

If your meeting fails to result in a set of accountable actions and clear outcomes, then it’s simply a talking shop and a time waster.  Effective meetings are those that have minutes that detail the actions and outcomes as a result of the meeting. There should be clear individual accountabilities along with due dates and measurable deliverables. Basically, you need to have a record of who’s doing what and by when.

There’s no escaping the fact that meetings are an inevitable part of the workplace, but it doesn’t always follow that they are productive. Use these guidelines to review the operation of meetings in your organisation, and make sure that your business runs better and more productively.