According to some recent studies, 15% of a company's time is dedicated to meetings. In fact, senior executives consider 67% of meetings to be "failures." despite that, they spend two days or more a week in them.
A detailed agenda and full attendee list aren’t all you need to have a successful meeting. How can you make sure your meetings are productive, engaging, and not a waste of anyone’s time?
Meetings don’t have to be a “necessary evil” anymore. The key element is to have everyone engaged. Gallup research shows that engagement is deeper and more emotional, and it predicts critical business outcomes, like profitability and productivity.
Even though it sounds impossible, there are some low-cost and high-impact activities you can incorporate to your meetings to swap the dreadfulness and torture for active listening, communication, and collaboration.
And it ain’t just coffee and donuts.
Here are 5 things you can do to improve engagement and participation in your meetings:
Before you send a calendar invite, evaluate if a meeting is necessary to move your work forward. You can identify non-worthy meetings by asking these questions:
Is it only to share information?
Can it be shared by email, slack, basecamp, or another online platform?
Is the reason because you are procrastinating and need motivation?
Is it only for a free lunch or the social aspect?
By using these questions as a filter, you can define the purpose of your meeting. Whether you want to brainstorm to solve a problem, make a decision, or set and review a plan, make sure you communicate the purpose. Setting clear expectations helps meeting participants fully understand, prepare, and buy into the purpose.
It usually feels like meetings are being run by a robot or by a detective with endless questions. Lose the stiffness and use a warm and genuine approach to facilitate your meetings. This change can go a long way in creating a comfortable atmosphere and capturing interest.
For example, you can start with this connectedness activity:
1) Ask participants to draw a question. Sample questions here:
What is a life lesson you are learning right now?
What has been the most inspiring moment in your life?
What do you find meaningful about the work you do?
2) Set the timer for 5 minutes, and ask participants to turn to another and discuss their questions and answers.
Take notice if the energy of the meeting shifted or if participation was higher than usual. Was there more laughter and fun present?
When we are involved in the creation of something, we develop a sense of ownership. We care more and want that thing to succeed. On the same token, when we ask someone for help, they begin to feel a sense of commitment before they say ‘yes’. Why’s that?
Humans have a strong desire for consistency; we want our actions to be consistent with what we have said and feel discomfort when they don’t match up. Studies even show that this drive is strong enough to trump concerns for our safety.
It happens the same when you co-create your way to run effective meetings; we instantly feel responsible as for the outcome.
A useful tool for creating ownership is the Culture Pact. The pact asks teams to get aligned with the purpose of the meeting and how they will participate. Could your employees make a pact to create a great environment for one another? Some asks include sharing ideas freely, having a beginner’s mindset, and listening carefully. Have everyone agree to the pact and add to it to address gaps as your meetings evolve. Make it fun too!
Don’t make meetings a once-in-a-while thing. Set a meeting cadence to reconnect and follow up on ideas and execution. A regular schedule will encourage discipline and accountability. The company Gazelles highlights the importance of having daily huddles and weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meeting patterns to be effective.
You can set the calendar with recurring invites for the meeting and a reminder in between, encouraging everyone to be hands-on, get ready information to share their progress, and ask for support and updates.
Do you think the only way to run meetings is with everyone around a table? Wrong! Guess again! Another way you can engage participants is to team up in buddies or truddies [three-person group] to come up with creative solutions.
At your next meeting, list the subjects you want to review and capture ideas on, either to make a decision about a project or to find a solution for a problem. The next step is to assign 2-3 participants per subject and set a 10-15 min timer to share context and let ideas flow.
Chances are, your meeting will turn into an accelerator for exciting, positive ideas.
Applying these quick things is not difficult; it only requires an open mindset and a broader perspective. Unproductive meetings cost U.S. businesses an estimated $37 billion a year. It’s time we reframe and reformat meetings in the workplace.
People are hungry for change and trying new things. Go for it and try these hacks! Emphasize progress rather than perfection. You can always review and improve. It’s a win-win!