How to Participate in More Effective, Productive Meetings in 2019

group of coworkers collaborating in team meeting

According to a new article “Do We Really Need Another Meeting? The Science of Workplace Meetings” recently published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, most employees spend an average of around 6 hours every week in meetings, while managers spend about 23 hours. For many professionals, the time spent in meetings is often much higher than this.

But is all that meeting time really necessary? If you’ve ever spent an hour in a meeting only to come out at the end with no clear sense of what was accomplished or what the purpose really was, then you’ll want to consider how to make this time more productive and cut down on unnecessary meetings.

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The study’s authors, who claim “meetings are generally bad,” nailed down some practical tips professionals can implement to improve the structure, content, and outcomes of their meetings:

Before the meeting:

  • Consider needs and goals: Make sure you’re not holding a meeting to share non-urgent information that could easily be circulated in an email. Meetings should be about problem-solving and decision making, so before the meeting have a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished.
  • Create an agenda: Having a written agenda – even if it’s just a few bullet points – and circulating it to everyone in attendance will help to provide focus and keep the discussion from going off topic.
  • Don’t over-invite: Be mindful of who you invite to participate. Make sure everyone in attendance is a relevant participant and has direct expertise in the subject matter.

During the meeting:

  • Stick to the agenda: Whoever is leading the meeting should stick to the agenda and ensure that the purpose of the meeting is kept in focus throughout.
  • Encourage feedback and contribution: The most successful kinds of problem-solving activities are usually collaborative. Encourage active participation from the meeting members and set the tone for good communication practices so that the best ideas are encouraged to surface.
  • Curtail unproductive behavior: If the meeting starts to veer off course, be comfortable gently and respectfully guiding everyone back to the topic at hand. Redirect any inappropriate comments or irrelevant topics back to the agenda while keeping the tone positive and collaborative.

After the meeting:

  • Share key takeaways: While you may not take detailed “minutes” for every single meeting, you should have someone record some of the key takeaways or action items and share with all attendees immediately after the meeting.
  • Ask for feedback: It’s a good practice to regularly re-evaluate your own process and make sure that you’re optimizing your meeting time. One of the best ways to find out how productive your meetings are is to get feedback from the attendees. Take some time a few times a year to assess how the structure or organization of the meetings works for them and see if they have any suggestions for how it could be improved.
  • Don’t forget about long-term goals: Don’t lose sight of the long-term goals and outcomes that result from your meetings. Assess how the progress you’re making in an hour- or two-hour long meeting contributes to the overall success or goals you’re working towards for your team or department.

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