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The Art of Having Productive Meetings

Meetings are inescapable part of the corporate world. Everybody has to attend them whether you’re a rank and file workers, supervisor, manager and or even CEO. In fact, the higher one goes up the corporate ladder the more meetings he has to attend.

Meetings are very important because this is the venue where problems are solved. Meetings can also serve as venue in generating new ideas because many people can provide their own thoughts or views. Thus, the best meetings can raise a company to greater heights.

Unfortunately, not all meetings are ideal. There are badly managed meetings that cause confusion instead of resolving problems. In fact, according to a survey done by Microsoft, 32 percent of respondents say that unclear objectives, lack of team communication and ineffective meetings cause their unproductivity at work. This means that conducting unproductive meetings waste the time of employees which in turn add cost to companies.

Productive meetings do not happen automatically. The truth is that they require experience and good attitude from both meeting facilitators and attendees. It is a tall order, but there things that can be done to make productive meetings possible. These include:

1. Share the Meeting’s Agenda Beforehand

An agenda is just a list that indicates the topics to be tackled during the meeting. Thus, it is very important for it to be provided prior to the meeting. The meeting’s agenda should be provided at least three days or more prior to the meeting to give attendees ample time to prepare their reports and other documents.

2. Share Clear and Identifiable Goals

Productive meetings have a direction and that can only happen when there are clear and identifiable goals. Thus, it is important that the attendees be informed of meeting goals to avoid unrelated topics being raised during the meeting.

According to a study conducted by Aarhus University’s transdisciplinary Interacting Minds Centre (IMC), clear and identifiable goals “increase our perception of cooperation, trust and shared expectations”. The study also showed, “that when the people involved could see the end product, they felt they were sharing a collective goal and were therefore more willing to trust and cooperate with their colleagues”. This only means that people will be more cooperative to provide ideas or solve problems when there are clear and identifiable goals during a meeting. Increases in cooperation equates to increases in productivity.

3. Identify Actionable vs Long Term Goals and Separate Them

Actionable goals are activities that may be accomplished immediately. This is clearly different from long term goals which take longer periods of time and more effort to accomplish. These two should be separated so that meetings will not be bogged down with topics that need more time (or more meetings) to be resolved.

4. Use Time Wisely and Discuss Only Pertinent Matters

Meetings should only last for an hour or less, because this is a venue for resolving problems. They are not meant to tackle things that can be discussed through other means, like email. Nor should they eat up time that is better spent on more crucial works and decisions.

5. Separate Chatty Seatmates

Chatty seatmates are quite common during meetings. Facilitators should ensure that all attendees focus on the meeting and not on talking about unrelated topics.

The five things written here are just a few of the many things that could be done in facilitating more productive meetings. Other things that should be considered include the management of laptops or smartphones during meetings to avoid distractions, handling uncooperative and/or rowdy meeting participants, and communicating well during meetings.

The list can go on and on, but what must be remembered is that productive meetings are really about the art of nourishing fruitful interpersonal relationships between all meeting participants.

Author information

Jonha Richman

Jonha Richman is a business strategist with over 8 years of experience working with brands such as IKEA, Dove, Panasonic, etc. Her works have been published on The Huffington Post, Business Insider, among others.