How To Make Meetings Better

Stop the Meetings to Get More Done

Take a look around the room next time you’re in a meeting. There’s a good chance someone will be engaged more with their smart phone than the host. Some may be doodling while others check the clock regularly or simply stare vacantly at the door. Let’s face it, there’s a reason that meetings have been called everything from a “huge waste of time” to “weapons of mass interruption.”

The fact is, although the average office worker in the US will spend more than nine hours each week attending or preparing for meetings, a poll by Clarizen and Harris found that many employees believe meetings reduce, rather than enhance, productivity.

Al Pittampalli, a former Ernst & Young employee and author of the book, Read This Before Our Next Meeting, says that many organizers come unprepared and are quick to veer off topic. When organizations hold too many meetings the decision making process gets mired with too many protocols. “They’ve become the default stalling tactic for important decisions,” Pittampalli said in a CBS interview. “One meeting turns into many meetings. And the person calling the meetings looks productive while doing it. It’s the perfect crime.”

Perhaps the economist John Kenneth Galbraith said it best: “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”


Meeting Alternatives

While you may not be able to completely eliminate meetings from your workplace, you can make meetings better. Instead of holding traditional meetings that require several employees to take time away from other important work, consider these alternatives that streamline the meeting process so that everyone can stay more productive.

Collaboration Apps

Project management systems like Basecamp and Wrike can be effective alternatives to keep traditional meetings to a minimum. Not only do they allow employees to stay informed and on task with project deadlines, they allow users to instant message each other for swift communication. These platforms also enable them to communicate through email, RSS and even third party platforms.In addition, collaboration apps can track time, and archive communication making them ideal when assessing time management and for future project planning. Rather than project management, if your team is looking for a simple instant messaging platform, try HipChat.

Google Docs

A simple and quick way to start better communication in the workplace is through Google Docs. It gives you the ability to share, edit and store important documents easily and, even better, free of charge. Use it with Google Talk to further enhance its effectiveness.


When a real-time meeting is necessary, consider using a service like GoToMeeting, Skype, or any number of free teleconferencing services like Phone meetings can save time by cutting down on the small talk before and after meetings, and most teleconferencing platforms also offer transcript services or recordings of the meeting, so you can cut back on the note taking.


A planned one hour long meeting to discuss several different issues can take, well, much longer than an hour. Instead of calling a meeting with an entire department or with several staff members that is only relevant to each of them for a fraction of the total time, why not arrange to meet for shorter amounts of time with each employee?

There are two benefits to this approach: First, you save your employees valuable time. And second, when you can focus on just one person at a time, you’ll listen better and understand the issues more clearly.


How to Hold a Better Meeting

If a meeting is still the best option for the matter at hand, or your company requires them, there are ways to make your next one effective. It comes down to planning ahead and sticking to the topics once you get into the conference room.

Invite Only the Necessary People

Have you ever been in a meeting and wondered why you needed to be there? While meeting planners may want to include more than the necessary people in meetings to establish a consensus or to make sure they’re a “team player,” those on the periphery of the current issues will only detract from the meeting.

Rather than invite those who have little say or influence on the decisions you need to make, send them a detailed summary of the meeting afterwards.

Have a Clear Goal

Define a clear goal for the meeting and stay on topic to reach your goal by the end. Make sure everyone at the meeting understands what the goal is and let them know that issues not pertaining to it will be discussed outside of the meeting.

Send Agenda and Supplements the Day Before

It takes time to look over agendas and the materials that can accompany a meeting. Make sure to send all preparation items over the day before so your meeting participants can be fully prepared and ready to participate. This is critical for all meetings, but especially important for those that involve detailed data and figures.

Keep Them To A 20-Minute Maximum

You have only a limited amount of time to hold peoples’ attention. Keep your meetings at no more than 20 minutes and reiterate this at the beginning of the meeting. Not only is this an incentive to keep everyone on topic but it shows you’re considerate of your colleague’s time!

Photo credit: Stephan Ridgway / CC BY 2.0

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Some good alternatives shared here for having meeting other than the traditional ones which saves time and raise productivity.

    Thanks for sharing these over here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *