Meetings can easily overrun, get interrupted and become distracted from what they are meant to be about. How can you take back control to ensure meetings are more productive?
Meetings are a vital part of many organizations, but they can end up taking up a lot of time and not always being as efficient as you might hope. In fact, research has found that on average, workers will spend more than one working day a week both preparing for and attending meetings.
Over the course of 40 years of working, this means people will spend around ten years of work time in and getting ready for meetings. With so many taking place and people needing to fit them into their schedules, it goes to show how important it is to ensure meetings go to plan.
Taking control of your meetings will ensure you discuss what you intended to, achieve some kind of resolution and have clear next steps to take. Not only will this avoid wasted time when it comes to the meeting itself, you won't need to chase people up or try to clarify so much after the fact. To stop your meetings spiraling out of control, here are some steps you should take:
Create and share a plan
Creating and sharing a meeting agenda prior to the meeting is a great idea for a number of reasons;
- It will help you maintain control of a meeting, as you have a plan to follow and direct people.
- You can share it prior to the meeting so others know what to expect/discuss.
- It provides other with the opportunity to add to it.
- Everyone will understand what the focus of the meeting is.
Your plan will largely depend on what you want to achieve in the meeting, the structure it will take, what questions you need answered and what responsibilities will need to be given out to put the results of the meeting into action.
Other things you'll want to consider when drawing up your agenda is who is attending the meeting. If everyone knows each other and is up to speed on what you are discussing, it's unlikely you'll require much time at the start to fill everyone in. However, if you need to make introductions or brief everyone on key before you make a real start, this will need to be factored in.
Find your meeting space
The environment in which you hold your meeting is an important part of ensuring people remain focused. Holding your meeting in a busy, untidy or cramped space can affect its productivity and mean that people's attention is divided.
Ideally, the place you hold your meeting should be comfortable and free of distractions to allow everyone attending to give it their full focus. 71 per cent of people say they are regularly distracted at work, which leaves them with just a 44 per cent chance that they'll end the day feeling positive about what they got done.
Finding the best possible meeting space can make it much easier to control your meeting and keep it on track, especially if everyone else in the company knows not to interrupt it.
Meetings that don't have a strong voice leading them can soon become chaotic and lose focus, which is why you need to be strict with how the meeting goes. Each aspect of the agenda should be given a specific amount of time, which you need to stick to in order to stop the meeting overrunning. While you may think it won't matter if an extra half an hour is tacked onto the end of a meeting, this can severely affect people's attention.
Similarly, if people are going off track, have spoken for too long or are jumping ahead in the agenda, don’t be afraid to cut them off and bring everyone back on plan. So long as you do this in a polite way and communicate that the reason is to get the most out of the meeting, people shouldn't take it personally.
This will ensure that you are better able to discuss all the points on the agenda without having to skip any and then plan another meeting. It should also help all attendees feel as though the meeting achieved something.
Insights for Professionals provide free access to the latest thought leadership from global brands. We deliver subscriber value by creating and gathering specialist content for senior professionals. To view more Management content, click here.