6 Ways to Make Work Meetings More Productive

By Alicia Geigel on August 13, 2023

Work meetings have a tendency to get a bad reputation, and oftentimes they are boring, unproductive, and unnecessary. Given this bad reputation, it can be hard to make meetings productive if employees already had a negative impression of meetings in the first place. As an employer, it’s your job to make meetings effective and productive, and here are six ways you can do so!

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1. Determine If a Meeting is Necessary: Let’s face it, no one actually likes going to a work meeting. There’s a reason why the phrase, “This could have been an email,” is frequently uttered by workers because the truth is, so many meetings can just be emails or memos in the office somewhere. Workers are destined to grumble at the idea of a meeting if they know it isn’t necessary, so it’s up to you as the employer/recruiter to weigh the information you plan on discussing, and determine whether or not it can be addressed in a different way before making everyone sit in the conference room. If an employee gets the drift that the meeting could have been reduced to an email or a simple conversation, there’s a strong chance the meeting won’t be productive.

2. Establish the Meeting Agenda Beforehand: The most important part of a meeting is the content you will be discussing, aka the agenda. A meeting agenda outlines all of the important points you need to address and gives your employees a heads-up about what to expect so they can be prepared to ask questions, contribute to the conversation, and understand what they need to do after the meeting takes place. By establishing the agenda beforehand, employees will be more motivated to actively participate in the meeting and therefore be more productive both in and out of it.

3. Be Respectful of Employee Time: In the world, respect is a currency. It’s hard to get if you don’t make an effort to show it. In the workplace especially, respect is a pivotal component of a healthy and productive work environment. As an employer, showing respect isn’t limited to being considerate about overloading tasks or granting a day off, but applies to conducting work meetings in three different ways: starting on time, setting a time limit, and not canceling at the last minute.

-Starting on Time: If you tell your employees that the meeting is going to start at 9 a.m., start the meeting at 9 a.m. Not a minute before, not five minutes after, but promptly at 9 a.m. Starting on time not only shows that you respect your employee’s time, but also shows them that you are serious about what you have to tell them.

-Setting a Time Limit: If there isn’t a set agenda for the meeting, it can drag out for minutes or even hours longer than it needs to. Before you even start the meeting, establish a time limit (30 minutes, one hour, etc.) and tell your employees how long the meeting should take. They have work duties and a life outside of the meeting, and having a set window for the meeting can help them plan their day better.

-Not Canceling Last Minute: In a work environment, having a meeting canceled at the last minute can really mess up an entire day. Work meetings should be taken very seriously, as coworkers, bosses, employees, etc. plan out their days around the time and duration of the scheduled meeting. Lindsay Kolowich of HubSpot suggests, “Before you simply change the time on the calendar invitation and call it a day, put yourself in your meeting attendees’ shoes. What inconveniences might you be causing? What special plans and arrangements might they have made around your meeting?” If canceling or rescheduling is unavoidable, effectively communicate to the attendees your reasoning and apologize.

4. Stay Focused: There is nothing worse than being in a meeting that doesn’t have an established focus. It feels scattered and like a big waste of time, as ideas and important topics can’t be conveyed in a clear way. It can be easy to get off track in a meeting, especially if you have a personal connection with some of your employees, but do your best to stay focused to clearly get your point across. If your employees don’t know what your point is or see that you are all over the place, the meeting itself won’t be productive in the long run.

5. Give Time for People to Talk: In any work meeting, anticipate that your employees will have something to say. I mean, this is the best-case scenario, especially with a productive meeting as the desired goal. Allot time for employees to ask questions, give input about certain topics, and converse with you/one another about new ideas, ways to improve, etc. For employees who tend to be on the quiet side, David Finkel suggests (via Forbes), “A simple trick to give a voice to the quieter participants is to give them a moment to “jot down” their ideas, thoughts, or input to be shared with you later.”

6. Plan for Coffee and Breakfast Items: In the morning, employees are bound to be a bit tired and hungry. For whatever reasons, there is always a group that hasn’t had coffee or breakfast, which can make them lethargic, undermotivated, and quite frankly, moody. A few days before the meeting, ask around the office for everyone’s breakfast preferences. This doesn’t have to be a fine dining occasion, and can simply be coffee with some doughnuts, bagels, and muffins. This gesture will make your employees feel valued and more productive, no doubt!

Hosting a productive work meeting doesn’t have to be rocket science. By following these few simple tips, you are bound to have a productive work meeting and make your employees happy in the process!

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