Dave Deslauriers /
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How to Hold Shorter, More Productive Meetings

For most companies, meetings are a part of everyday life. Whether it be a small gathering with your team, an appointment with a prospect or client, or a company-wide session, these get-togethers are a vital part of doing business. However, if not organized properly, meetings can also be a huge waste of valuable time. In this article we’ll discuss several surefire ways for your company to hold shorter, more productive meetings.

Develop and Provide a Detailed Agenda Prior to the Meeting

One of the simplest ways to shorten your company’s meetings is to ensure that all participants come prepared. According to Business Administration Information, this starts with a detailed agenda. ” A classic meeting fail is sitting down at the conference table only knowing the title of the meeting is “marketing budget” – and nothing else. “Marketing budget” could mean a million things. This not only leads to unprepared attendees, but it typically necessitates another meeting. An agenda should be sent out prior to the meeting (not presented at the start of the meeting) so people have time to gather materials in preparation. Also, each agenda item should have a person responsible for it.”

Use a Facilitator

We’ve all sat in on meetings that seem to go around and around in circles without actually getting anything accomplished. This leads to a lot of frustration and wasted time. Business Coach, Tom LaForce suggests solving that problem by utilizing a meeting facilitator. “Meetings often come to a screeching halt as the participants struggle to overcome some barrier. This is exactly when a facilitator can help. Their number one job is to prevent teams from becoming or remaining stuck. Facilitators offer a tool bag full of activities and techniques for quickly guiding a group over the rough spots with minimal pain and effort.”

Create a “Parking Lot”

It’s perfectly normal for thoughts, ideas, or questions to arise during the course of a meeting that aren’t directly related to the agenda items of the day. Instead of veering off topic to discuss, Business Management Daily suggests creating a “parking lot” for those items. “On a whiteboard, jot down any ideas, questions and concerns that don’t relate directly to the agenda items. At the end of each meeting, assign people to further investigate the parked items. Schedule follow-up meetings as necessary.” This idea will help keep your meetings focused and succinct.

Set a Firm Timeframe and Stick to It

Perhaps the most important way to shorten meetings is by allotting a specific amount of time for the gathering, and sticking to it. The Harvard Business Review relays a trick used by Google, “To add a little pressure to keep meetings focused, Google gatherings often feature a giant timer on the wall, counting down the minutes left for a particular meeting or topic. It’s literally a downloadable timer that runs off a computer and is projected 4 feet tall.” While you may not want to take it to that extreme, it may be worth periodically updating participants on the amount of time remaining in the meeting to help keep things flowing.

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