6 Tips for Conducting Better Meetings According to the Experts
It’s a beautiful summer’s day outside and you are stuck in a meeting all afternoon. So how do you make the most of it? How can employers and employees all improve when it comes to conducting better meetings?
Studies show that our expectations of meetings and what we actually experience are very often poles apart. In theory, our anticipation of meetings is one of a warm atmosphere, where ideas are gratefully offered and received. Everyone participates, brilliant new ideas are brainstormed and welcomed with gratitude from higher management. In the end, everyone leaves with a huge sense of validation, achievement and sense of optimism for the future.
In reality, can you remember when just one of the above happened in a meeting? So we have to ask, why is there such an enormous divide between what we anticipate is going to happen and the reality of what actually does? More importantly, how can we bridge the gap between the two?
Luckily experts have explored this very question. There is an area of research called ‘meeting science’ which aims to discover why meetings fail so miserably time and time again. Many experts come to the conclusion that employees are busy doing the actual jobs they are paid for and feel that meetings are a waste of their time.
Here are the top ten reasons why meetings fail, according to the experts:
- There is no purpose for the meeting.
- The meeting is not organised well.
- It drags on for too long.
- Nothing is achieved by having the meeting.
- Employees are not encouraged to voice their concerns.
- Meetings are allowed to get out of control.
- It is always only one, or just a few people that get to be heard at meetings.
- There is no direction or focus in the meeting.
- No one knows what they are supposed to do after the meeting.
- There is no follow-up from one meeting to the next.
So now we understand why they fail, how can we conduct better meetings? One recent US study went through the research collected from 200 studies of meetings. It compiled a list of scientific-based tips on conducting better meetings.
Here is what the experts came up with:
6 Tips for Conducting Better Meetings
Make the purpose clear
Everyone is busy these days and no one has time to waste on meetings that are not necessary. Make the purpose and the goals clear from the outset and you will achieve greater attendance and more involvement. Not only because you’ll get people there who want to be there, but those who are there have a vested interest in what you want to achieve.
Write an agenda
It’s easy to get off track or go off on a tangent when people are animated and enthusiastic. Of course, you want your employees to be involved and offer interesting ideas and innovative solutions. But if you write down an agenda you can be organised, you can keep the meeting moving forward and stick to the important points that you need to cover. Make sure you circulate this agenda to everyone who is come to the meeting so they can prepare.
If you have to deal with a problem try and keep your language positive. You can do this by directing the conversation away from negative comments such as “It can’t be done,” or “It’s impossible,” to “Okay if that didn’t work, what could we try instead?”
Listen to everyone
Nothing will make a person switch off faster than if they think they are being ignored. We all like to think our points are valued. However, as a manager, it is hard to know what to do with an idea that you might think is ridiculous. What you shouldn’t do is mock someone’s idea. Instead, say that you don’t think it would work in this situation but thank them for offering a suggestion.
Watch your body language
If you are leading the meeting and you are sat with your arms crossed, legs swinging, yawning and staring out of the window, how do you think others are going to react? However, standing up, using open arms, using a person’s name, looking them in the eyes, nodding when a person offers up an idea are all engaging signs that mean you are interested. You might have written a great opening statement for your meeting but just be mindful of what your body is telling everyone.
Keep minutes of the meeting
Having someone keeping minutes is crucial if you want something productive to come out of your meetings. In fact, moving forward, getting into the habit of recording minutes will not only lead to better meetings but better office practice overall. Once the meeting is over make sure you send out a record of the minutes to all who attended.
Meetings don’t have to be boring or a waste of time. Just follow these science-based tips and hopefully they will improve.