Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Stop Wasting Your Time in Meetings!

It’s been estimated that 15% of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings. Worse yet, it’s also been estimated that over 37 BILLION dollars per year are spent on unproductive meetings.

That’s enough to make any business person’s head hurt.

If you’re frustrated with the lack of preparation, organization, progress, and productivity happening in your meetings, you’re not alone. And yet you probably find yourself suffering through these sessions on a regular basis.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Not all meetings are a waste of time

Some of them are necessary. And productive. But far too many of them aren’t. This is unfortunate because it really doesn’t take that much to make your meetings less painful and more productive.

In fact, you can vastly improve your meetings by following these three principles:

  1. Stop meeting just because

Just because a meeting is on the schedule doesn’t mean it needs to happen.

Don’t waste everyone’s time by holding meetings out of obligation or without a defined purpose. Having a meeting simply because it’s the second Friday of the month is ridiculous. Even if there are snacks involved.

Reasons to have a meeting:

  • Your team is working collectively to achieve a specific, defined objective
  • There are important updates to communicate, and it can’t easily be done via email
  • The meeting content is educational and will better prepare each attendee to be more successful in his/her role

Reasons not to have a meeting:

  • It’s Monday, and you always meet on Mondays
  • You like getting everyone together just to “touch base”
  • Someone brought doughnuts

If you are going to take your people away from their work, you’ve got to make it count.

  • Define the specific objectives to be achieved in the meeting
  • Communicate those objectives when the meeting is scheduled and remind everyone of the objective when (or before) the meeting starts
  • Once you’ve achieved your objectives, end your meeting. No need to hang around just because you have the time blocked out.

Scheduling tip: Meetings don’t automatically need default to an hour. If you’ve got 20 minutes of material to cover, schedule 20 minutes.

  1. Commit to an agenda

Never ask people to come to a meeting without explaining in reasonable detail why they need to be there and what will happen when they arrive.

Having a clear agenda not only assures there is an objective for the meeting, it forces the facilitator to prepare and lets each attendee know what they need to do in order to contribute and benefit from the meeting.

Planning tip: The agenda doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a few bullet points. However, those bullet points must be specific, relevant, and distinct. Going around the room and letting everyone talk for 5 or 10 minutes is NOT an agenda. And if you’re using the same agenda every week, you’re not accomplishing anything significant.

  1. Confirm attendance and outcomes

First things first. Get confirmation of who will be attending the meeting before it happens.

Unless you’re still meeting for the sake of meeting, everyone on the invite list should be critical to the defined objectives. If one key person is missing, your meeting could easily turn unproductive. If you know ahead of time that critical participants, facilitators, and/or decision-makers can’t be there, don’t waste everyone else’s time. Cancel and reschedule.

At the end of your meeting, you’ll also want to confirm tasks and takeaways. Before everyone gets up and walks out the door, make sure everyone understands and commits to doing whatever is required of them to further the objectives of the meeting.

Productivity tip: Your meeting attendees aren’t there to be entertained. They are there to participate and contribute. Ask them if they got what they expected out of the meeting, and confirm what they will do as a result.

Make your meetings count

Adhering to these three meeting principles will significantly improve meeting attitudes and outcomes.

Once you start consistently having efficient and productive meetings, your colleagues, prospects, and clients will be more much more willing to attend. And they’ll be better prepared afterward.

Great meetings aren’t about quantity, they’re about quality. Get rid of unproductive meetings and you’ll be a workplace hero! Bring coffee and you just might reach sainthood.

Is your benefits broker also a compliance consultant? How about a trusted business partner? Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—and your employees— are healthy and productive?


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