7 best practices for organizing productive meetings

Posted by media on August 19, 2015 at 6:00 PM

EN-Organizing-productive-meetings

Many companies schedule more meetings than is truly necessary, resulting in wasting time for many team members. However, the goal should not be to just reduce the number of meetings per week, but to make them more time-efficient as well.

To keep your team on track, it’s advisable to organize only the really essential meetings. But it’s even more critical to plan them well, so it’s feasible to achieve the targets set for each meeting without wasting any more time than necessary.

In this post we have collected 7 best practices to ensure that your meetings are truly productive and that they do not become a mere formality that makes your team feel like they are wasting their time:

This post is also available in Spanish.


1. Set an agenda with a maximum of 5 topics to discuss at each meeting...

If you specify which topics will be discussed at a meeting - a maximum of 5 topics - and you inform all participans in advance via email, it will be much easier to finish the meeting with accomplished goals. Without clear guidance announcing to the participants what the issues are, conversations are likely to go off in tangents not related to the established topics, resulting in longer meetings than necessary.

If you have more than 5 topics to discuss with your team or with the board of directors, it is advisable to call more than one meeting. If you have less than 5 topics, ask yourself if you really need to meet and, if so, determine who should really attend the meeting. In this second case, maybe you could try a more informal type of meeting, such as a stand-up meeting.


2. ...and always start discussing the priority topics

While you should always aim to finish meetings on time, it´s not always possible even if you stick to only the predefined topics. Therefore, it is always a good practice to discuss the priority issues first. If the deadline set for the meeting finishes just after discussing the priority issues (see the following point), it is better to stick to that time and end the meeting at that point than to extend it for discussing the less important topics. Those can be postponed and discussed in the next meeting.


3. The ideal meeting should not exceed 30 minutes

In addition to setting a maximum number of topics for each meeting, it is also important to set a limit time for it. Ideally, it should be possible to discuss the selected issues in a maximum of 30 minutes. To achieve this, besides informing the participants beforehand about the agenda, it is advisable to emphasize at the beginning of the meeting that it will last a maximum of half an hour. You should also ask the participants to focus and adjust their contributions and comments on the topics proposed for that meeting.

If it’s necessary that the meeting lasts more than 30 minutes, set also a time limit to finish it and fix a 5 minute break every half an hour. Notify this time allocation to the attendants at the beginning of the meeting, and thank them in advance to stick to the proposed timing. This will help maintain the concentration and focus on the topics discussed and, if you get everyone to respect the rules, the objectives of the meeting will be reached within its deadline.


4. If secondary ideas arise, write them down for discussing them in the next meeting.

Most times it is difficult to avoid that secondary ideas come up from the topics addressed at a meeting. And indeed, it is good that such ideas arise, since they can derive new and interesting points of views on the subject, or they can even give birth to new products or services. However, you should maintain a balance to not let the meeting become a brainstorming. In these cases, it is advised to give some space to let the new ideas flow and discuss them briefly, then write them down to talk about them in another meeting, and after that re-direct the conversation before it gets too far from its main purpose.


5. If the purpose of the meeting is to take a decision, collect the information beforehand

The purpose of many meetings is to agree on a decision. To achieve this without wasting time, it is important that all participants enter a meeting room knowing in advance all relevant information regarding the case. This way, no time is lost updating with the relevant information available or the possible options. Everyone knows what they need to know, and everyone can comment and discuss the alternatives from the beginning of the meeting.


6. Require the participants to be punctual

The punctuality of all participants is essential to meet the objectives of a meeting, as it is essential to address the range of issues raised within the meeting’s deadline. Although sometimes there may be sound excuses for not arriving on time to a meeting, you should not give room for that to happen, because it is also a lack of respect for those colleagues who have managed to be on time, and on the other side they also hope to leave on time the meeting.


7. If remote teams are participating in the meeting, make sure there is good internet connection

When it comes to arrange a meeting with a team mate (or a whole team) working remotely, it is important to make sure that there’s good internet connection in the place where you are going to have the meeting. Whatever tool you use to meet with a teammate working remotely - Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting - if there is not good connection it can not be carried out adequately, since intermittent communications do not allow to concentrate on a topic during a conversation. Due to this issue, the meeting is likely to last longer than expected or may not be possible to hold it at all.


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This post is also available in Spanish.


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Topics: Human Resources

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