Create a highly effective meeting culture in 4 steps

Have you ever felt that you’re spending more time in meetings? You’re not alone!

Time spent in meetings increased sharply during the pandemic when remote meetings compensated for informal social interactions. Unfortunately, bad meeting habits have persisted. We have defaulted to scheduling too many meetings that are unstructured, over-attended, and end without having achieved tangible outcomes.

Excessive meetings

More than ever before, we are losing valuable time to excessive meetings, emails, and chat messages. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index revealed in March 2022 that the number of meetings had risen by 153%, chats increased by 32%, and the average workday span was 13% longer than in March 2020. Furthermore, 57% of the time that users spent on Microsoft apps between February and March 2023 was on Teams and Outlook, far less than focussed work tools. In the same period, inefficient meetings were reported as the greatest obstacles to productivity.

The cost of inefficient meetings

Even before the pandemic, inefficient meetings were estimated to cost US companies $399bn, with 67% of employees and 71% of managers saying that meetings affected their performance. The consequences of these meetings are disruptions to focused and creative work, increased stress, diminished well-being, disaffection, absenteeism, and loss of talent. It’s clear that addressing the issue of inefficient meetings is crucial for maintaining a healthy work environment and promoting productivity.

Too often, the answer to any work issue is ’let’s meet’. Meetings aren’t necessarily bad but the way we prep and lead them can sometimes derail productivity.

Cathi Rittelmann, Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry

Our four-step guide to streamlining meetings:

1. Do you need a meeting?

• Meetings are great for human connection, collaboration, decision making that requires consensus from a team, and ideation.

• Status updates, single-point decision making, sharing information, and factual questions are best left to asynchronous work.

2. Before the meeting: Preparation is key

• Clearly outline the meeting’s purpose and define the desired outcomes.

• Set an agenda with clearly listed goals and time allocations for each item.

• Invite only people who really need to attend.

• Assign roles well in advance so that presenters, facilitators, and note takers can prepare.

• Attach background information to the meeting invitation to avoid additional emails. Share notes that can be edited by all attendees, providing an opportunity to contribute information.

• Set the duration of the meeting using the timings of the agenda, so you only take the time that’s needed. All the better if this doesn’t come to a standard timeframe, like 30 or 60 minutes.

• Schedule meetings at unconventional times, such as 5 or 10 minutes past the hour, to prevent back-to-back meetings and allow for breaks.

3. During the meeting: Facilitate, Capture, Connect

• The facilitator plays an essential role in guiding the meeting:

◊ Start by setting ground rules and outlining the purpose of the meeting.

◊ Keep the agenda on time and highlight when outcomes have been achieved.

◊ Ensure a balanced conversation, with contributions from all participants.

◊ Politely reserve topics that have strayed from the agenda and revisit them at a more appropriate time.

◊ Recap actions with owners at the end of the meeting.

◊ You can save Questions and Answers for asynchronous working.

• The notetaker captures key points during the discussion:

◊ Take notes in commonly accessible shared notes or documents.

◊ Experiment with productivity apps and AI for notetaking. Ensure that a digital notetaker provides a summary and key points, not just a transcription of what has been said.

• Foster human connection and boost engagement:

◊ Use technology to add variety and active participation to remote meetings with breakout rooms, polls, shared documents, and visual work platforms.

◊ Avoid multitasking during meetings, which takes people out of the conversation.

4. After the meeting: Document, Track, Improve

• Ensure meeting notes, key points, and actions are accessible to all attendees.

•Maintain a central project tracker for ongoing actions.

• Ask feedback from the team to continually improve the meeting process. Use polls or direct inquiries to understand what worked well and where improvements can be made.

Follow our four-step guide and create a culture of effective meetings that enhance human connection, collaboration, and overall productivity in your digital workplace.

Live More Offline’s mission is to enable people to thrive in healthier and more productive digital working cultures. To find out more about your digital wellbeing journey, simply get in touch with us or connect on LinkedIn.

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