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Productive Meeting Parameters

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Updating. Brainstorming. Collaborating. The foundational purposes for gathering together are solid. But like so much in life, when it comes to meetings, we can, in fact, have too much of a good thing. Meetings are designed to advance productive output. They can, however, have the opposite effect if we’re not judicious with our meeting planning.

Meetings Need a Purpose to Be Productive

Have you seen the meme with the old-school rolling TV set up in a classroom? It usually includes a caption that goes something like: You knew it was a good day when you walked in and saw this.” Like movie day in middle school, some people view meetings as a time to get away from the hum-drum of daily work. Or see it as a chance to catch up with fellow coworkers. This falls short of the productive meeting criteria. If productivity is on your personal agenda, an unproductive meeting on your calendar is not a welcome getaway.

Meetings need a purpose. This may seem obvious, but the reality is that some meetings simply happen because they were put on the calendar. Standing meetings are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon. Cancel a standing meeting if it is not needed. This won’t kill the standing meeting going forward. On the contrary, you risk future attendance and/or enthusiasm if you waste attendees’ time with a meeting that is not necessary.

If you find your team is craving some socializing, propose and/or organize a social. Non-working social gatherings build teamwork and boost productivity. They’re a valid use of time. The purpose of a social gathering is to ….. Yes! Socialize. Attendees come to this type of gathering understanding its purpose.

Meeting Times Should Honor the Individual Energy Cycle

So with a solid purpose in mind, it’s time to work through the timing for your meeting. Where possible, try to avoid morning hours. Why? Generally speaking, morning hours are most people’s most productive hours of the day. Focus is sharp and ripe for optimal independent output. You don’t want your meeting to be an interruption. Similarly, try to avoid scheduling Friday meetings. Many people spend the final day of the traditional work week wrapping up projects. Fridays are also popular vacation days; attendance could be impacted. Look for time slots mid-week in the afternoons. Right after lunch can be ideal. People are fed and ready to focus after breaking from their morning efforts.

Meeting Duration Considerations

How about the length of meeting time? Research shows that even when working independently on an engaging, individual tasks, people lose focus after 90 to 120 minutes. When passively listening, the productive window of time drops even quicker. To ensure productivity, limit your meeting to an hour – max. If you have a lot to cover, consider breaking up the agenda into manageable one-hour segments. A lunch break is one way to manage a large meeting agenda that will grow beyond 60 minutes. If travel is not a concern, holding multi-day, one-hour meetings will optimize the group’s focus, too. Try incorporating brainstorming to keep participants engaged. This honors the foundational meeting objective of collaboration.

A Prerequisite for a Productive Meeting: The Right People in Attendance

A thoughtful list of attendees supports a productive meeting. You want to make sure you have the right people in the room to move your project or agenda forward. Key stakeholder availability should be your scheduling driver.

Digital meeting invites are an excellent tool for confirming attendee availability. If you have networked calendars, viewing another’s calendar may help you find the right meeting time, but keep in mind that many people (smartly) time block their calendar to protect their white space. As such, they may, in fact, have availability that is not visible on their calendar. Depending on your working relationship, you may choose to call a desired attendee ahead of time to check availability before sending out the meeting invite.

If, between invite acceptance and the event gathering, you find that a key stakeholder is not going to be in attendance, reschedule the meeting. Again, the goal is to advance output. A missing key stakeholder will result in an unproductive meeting.

Nuts and Bolts of a Productive Meeting

Going beyond the purpose and people, below are additional guidelines to ensure a productive gathering:

  • Establish and share an agenda, preferably ahead of time. If the agenda is not solid when the meeting invite goes out, at least include a detailed description of the meeting purpose.
  • When possible, allow others to see who will be attending. This helps with individual attendee planning and preparation. What’s more, an invited attendee may alert you to someone not invited who’s actually needed.
  • If someone will be asked to take lead during a portion of the meeting, let them know ahead of time so they can prepare.
  • Be prudent with your list of attendees. Ask yourself if someone’s time would be better spent outside of the gathering.
  • To safeguard attendance, schedule a meeting reminder to accompany your digital meeting invite. Don’t assume everyone will remember, even if the meeting is on their calendar.
  • Secure and prepare your meeting space. Ensure that the room temperature is comfortable, lighting is adequate, you have the equipment you need and there is adequate space/chairs for your attendees.
  • During the meeting:
    • If you are the meeting organizer, it is your responsibility to keep the meeting on track. If you’re likely to be distracted, assign someone to be the timekeeper for you.
    • To stay on topic, consider using a “parking lot” to capture topics or concerns that should be tabled for separate discussion later.
    • Give others the opportunity to share their ideas and allow time for Q&A.
  • After the meeting, follow up with a brief written summary and include any agreed-up action items.

Meeting Parameters Promote Productivity

A gathering of minds is a set-up for expanded potential. Productive meetings deliver tangible results. Do your part to plan and prepare so you can fully capitalize on what is possible

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Sara Genrich & Nancy Kruschke, founders of Productivity Training Academy, came together with the vision of creating practical, results-driven online on-demand courses for time management, productivity and technology training.  With over 50 years of combined productivity experience, Sara and Nancy’s knowledge, skills and talents illuminate valuable paths to business gain, serving as an effective catalyst for positive change.

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