Construct productive meetings with these strategies

Despite the negative reputation that they often have, meetings are essential to a successful business. To clarify, effective meetings positively impact productivity and results. Effective meeting strategies help move them in the right direction, making them productive and lucrative. Below, you’ll find five strategies to level up your facilitation skills:

Setting a strategic agenda

Holding space to reset with your team

Expressing gratitude

Ending with a crucial call to action

Reviewing your meetings

Time is valuable and should be treated as such. According to an MIT study, managers spend between 25% and 75% of their time in meetings. That’s a substantial number, especially when the majority of people feel that most of those meetings are a waste of time. In a survey of over 200 senior executives from varying backgrounds conducted by the Harvard Business Review, only 17% of respondents reported that their meetings are generally productive uses of the company’s and individuals’ time. For Harvard Business Review, Antony Jay claims that a “meeting defines the team, the group, or the unit.” People contribute their experiences, knowledge, and learnings to the meeting when invited to participate. An effective facilitator provides a space for just that.

The same study found that 54% of respondents said most of their meetings are held too frequently, are poorly timed, and insufficiently run. The resulting lower productivity and collaboration are wasted time and resources.

How can you guarantee engaging, productive, and lucrative meetings? We’ve broken down strategies to help you build a win-win situation–mindful facilitation to produce an environment centered around focus, productivity, and respect. 

1. Set a strategic agenda.

Recognize the purpose of the meeting. When people understand the why behind the meeting, they’re more likely to engage in a positive manner. A meeting agenda can make or break a meeting’s potential. As the facilitator, sharing objectives should be a priority. The focus of the meeting should be clear, enabling people to engage in a productive manner.

“If I don’t have an agenda in front of me, I walk out,” Annette Catino, chief executive of the QualCare Alliance Network, told the New York Times in an interview. “Give me an agenda or else I’m not going to sit there, because if I don’t know why we’re in the meeting, then there’s no reason for a meeting.”

A well-structured roadmap provides a clear start and end time and defines topics. Having run through the agenda, everyone should be equipped to participate effectively with the guidance of a facilitator. Conducting room intelligence keeps the group on track with regard to time and focus. It’s important to keep the attention of participants and be clear with them that there is an end goal to the meeting. With time, teammates will trust the process and come to meetings ready to address a shared goal. For a head start, explore our downloadable guides to help you structure meetings appropriately.

Think of it this way: a meeting is a direct reflection of a company’s culture. Do expectations align with reality? Are employees showing up as participants? Hold each meeting to the same standard, always mindfully set timeframes, and honor them. That reflects on how you honor your employees–their time is valuable to themselves and the team. Time should not be wasted. The 80/20 rule states that 20% of activities account for 80% of results. Prioritization of topics and appropriate time management are essential to the meeting’s success. Just as importantly, be mindful of who you invite to the meeting. Here’s a source for handling participant conflict–it’s healthy when managed appropriately.

2. Hold space to mentally reset.

With changing workspaces and varying priorities, recognize that not everyone shows up to a meeting in the same place. Some people may have back-to-back meetings, while others may be entering from deep work on a project. Start by making sure that everyone feels heard. Tell them that you want them to engage because each person was invited for a reason. There are likely varying energies entering the meeting space, so it’s important to enable a reset for all participants. They’re there to potentially contribute, and you want them to recognize that. 

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Try starting the meeting with five minutes aimed at initiating mindfulness.

Try starting the meeting with five minutes aimed at initiating mindfulness. Group meditation is one route. Simply offer a five-minute guided meditation for the group. One study credited a 15-minute meditation to a 22% reduction in mind-wandering. Meditation can improve cognition, boost memory, counteract stress/burnout, and more.

If the group is small enough, clearing is another. Offer an opportunity for each participant to preface with what’s occupying their headspace coming into the meeting. It provides an opportunity for everyone to engage and feel heard, while also recognizing that there’s a need to shift focus towards the agenda.

3. Voice appreciation. 

In addition to discussing the tasks at hand, it’s important to sincerely voice appreciation for everyone’s choice to dedicate their time towards a common goal. Recognizing team and individual achievements can elevate morale and motivate individuals. Both are essential to the success of the company.

Other people are motivated to do great work when they see it rewarded. 
Expressing gratitude can focus thinking for teammates, reminding them that they’re making an impact in a specific way and that their work is noticed. Other people are motivated to do great work when they see it rewarded. A study by Glassdoor found that 81% of surveyed respondents felt more motivated after their bosses expressed appreciation for their efforts. Voice this earnest appreciation for their hard work, and you’ll quickly recognize the return.

4. End the meeting with goals–actionable goals. 

No matter how effective the meeting may have felt, time was wasted if you end without defining and assigning the next steps. Highlighting the meeting’s outstanding items is a productive use of time when done efficiently. Make the most of the meeting, then leave with actionable goals. Assign teammates to deadlines for outstanding tasks and identify expectations for the work. What does Jane need to accomplish, and by when? Who takes on the next steps? Mapping out what’s possible when each teammate sticks to the plan provides accountability. When the goal is achieved, it also provides a sense of rapport amongst the team.

5. Review your meetings.

If you’re reading this advice, you’re likely on the right track. No matter how efficient your meetings may feel, it’s smart to review the process occasionally and determine what could be improved. 

Avoid letting meetings feel stale. What’s working, and what could be improved? Provide an opportunity for teammates to provide occasional feedback about meeting structures. Maybe someone recently joined the team and brings knowledge of what worked well at their previous workplace. Consider our Magical Meetings templates an additional library of meeting resources. . 

Which of these strategies can help make your meetings more efficient? As you improve the planning and execution of meetings, your team will reap the benefits, and they’ll realize it. Meetings are well-regarded once mastered, as are expectations. With time in weekly meetings jumping 10% with remote work, an effective meeting protocol is crucial to a team’s shared goals.

Still eager to refine your approach to meetings? Consider applying for our Facilitator Certification for a deeper dive.

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