7 ways to make your SME meetings more productive
Productive meeting tips for your SME
I’m sure I’m not the only person who has worked in an environment where meetings often seem to be held for their own sake.
These meetings are a constant source of frustration; not only can they be draining on both your time and your concentration; they are frequently unsuccessful in finding the solution you seek.
So, having wasted perhaps an hour, you’re then racing to catch up on your work.
A recent study showed that three in ten senior business professionals feel that most of their meetings are pointless – that suggests that the structure of meetings needs improvement in a range of sectors. Indeed, it’s not so much what we’re discussing and how we’re doing it that makes meetings unproductive.
To that end, we’ve compiled seven productive meeting tips to help you keep your discussions in the boardroom on track.
1. Set objectives and send out agendas
A day or two before each meeting, send an objective and agenda out to all attendees. This gives them time to look things over and assemble any thoughts they have about the listed points, which should help the meeting to run more smoothly.
Once in the meeting, restate the objective.
Are you discussing the viability of a new product? Are you aiming to receive status updates on a number of projects?
Whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, keep the discussion on track by continually referring back to this objective. You can then use the agenda to provide a structure where you explore, for example, the benefits and challenges of various solutions to a problem or the actions needed to get a project back on track.
2. Keep the meeting interactive
Another of our productive meetings guidelines centres on promoting interaction. Long PowerPoint presentations or extensive periods of listening to one person talking are sure to switch your colleagues’ minds off.
The point of a meeting is to facilitate two way communication and ideas, not to subject your employees to a lecture.
Ensure that everyone at the meeting needs to be present.
Rather than planning so rigidly that there’s no room for discussion, give people the space to interject, ask questions and debate on points. Instead of expecting several monologues from colleagues, simply put a time against each particular point on the agenda and if the conversation is going nowhere, move onto the next.
Doing this ensures everybody in the room stays engaged and means that questions and ideas can be raised and discussed. This is more likely to lead to solutions or progressions than 45 minutes of listening to presentations followed by a short question and answer session afterwards.
3. Ensure you’re in a stimulating environment
Ordinarily, most meeting are going to have to be conducted in the boardroom but there are things you can do to stimulate creativity or interest.
Conducting productive meetings is nigh on impossible when the temperature is too hot or cold, the room is stuffy or there’s excess noise from outside the room. Choose a place and time where staff can be comfortable and uninterrupted and – occasionally – take them outside the office. All this helps them to stay focused on the task at hand and enables ideas to flow better.
4. Focus on getting results
By this, I don’t mean lock the boardroom door until a solution has been found or an agreement made. Rather, take steps to ensure that you and your colleagues come away having made some decisions or progress.
It’s unrealistic to assume that every issue that arises in a meeting can be resolved there and then but you should be able to come away with some firm results. To do this, prioritise your agenda according to the most important questions. If you need to spend more time on these at the expense of an item further down, it’s not then a disaster.
You can also encourage the group to think around ideas and suggestions by gently challenging a plan to see if it can be defended, or by stepping in to clarify the positives of an idea if the group is generally opposed to it. Not everyone will agree on everything, so it’s productive to explore plans and concepts from several angles before deciding on a way forward.
5. Take minutes and record responsibilities and timescales
One of our key productive meeting tips is to keep minutes. Although this can seem like a chore, it’s a very effective way of ensuring that everyone present is clear on the outcomes of the discussions. It also enables you to gather your thoughts after the meeting and share any actions that are required with the whole group in a follow up email.
This means that rather than the discussions being had and then forgotten, everyone who has a task to perform is reminded thereafter and can add it to their to do list. This increases the chances of it being completed for the next update or meeting.
6. Leave plenty of time to wrap up
Even the best run meetings run the risk of being a waste of time if they are not properly concluded. Aim to finish five or ten minutes before the official end time of the meeting and spend a couple of minutes summarising what has been agreed on, what still needs resolving and what actions need to be taken and by whom.
Finishing a little early will also allow your team to transition back to their work or get to another meeting comfortably. Often we end up rushing from one room to the next with no down time in between to process what we’ve just discussed, so try to leave a few minutes to encourage that.
7. Consider engaging an independent advisor
Sometimes having an independent advisor in your meeting is a good way to keep it on track and find a viable solution to a problem. This is something we often get asked to help with.