Business meetings are notorious time-sucks. What promised to be a productive hour soon devolves into tangents, unrelated questions, and circular arguments. For all that you accomplished, you could have just sent an email.
There are several ways to take back your time and ensure that you will have a productive meeting. The easiest are listed below.
Make your meetings shorter
Leadership expert Peter Bregman advocates for 30-minute meetings because they make participants hyper-aware of how their limited time is being used. This means fewer tangents and unrelated questions, with everyone focused on the task at hand. People also listen better when they are already focusing, making it less likely that any participants “zone out” over the course of the meeting. The shorter meetings incentivize participants to be on time, to arrive prepared, and to practice brevity given the limited time they have to accomplish the items on the agenda.
Make your meetings smaller
The more people in the room, the more likely it is that your meeting careens off track. Bob Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, senior fellow at Brookings Institute, and author of Extreme Productivity states that attendees who are not essential to the decision-making process are the ones most likely to send your meeting off the track. They are less likely to be invested and listening to what’s going on, and the larger number of people limits each individual’s feeling of responsibility for the meeting’s outcome.
Pozen recommends including only those individuals who are directly involved in the decision making process. If you are worried about offending someone who is left out, send an email summarizing what occurred during the meeting to keep them in the loop.
Make it a standing meeting
No, not standing as in weekly or regular. Standing as in actually standing. On your feet. Not only is this model better for your overall health –your metabolism is faster while you’re on your feet – it can cut your average meeting time by a whopping 34%. That’s because people are more likely to remain focused and alert during a standing meeting. And the desire to sit back down as soon as possible ensures that everyone will stay brief and to the point.