Turn These 5 Common Types of Business Meetings Into Productive Events

Business professionals in a meeting looking bored
••• Gettyimages/ Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

You do not have to look very far to find articles from experts on time management. Accomplished gurus and other pundits decry meetings and suggest you avoid, shrink or otherwise dispense with these often laborious corporate time wasters.

Nonetheless, sometimes we just have to meet. During meetings, there are some well-defined methods for conducting a productive meeting. Some techniques you can employ while using these methods will help your meetings become more productive and smooth.

Eliminate “Go Around the Table” Updates

You know this meeting. Cram eighteen people in a room and then require every person to share an update that typically sounds like attempts to justify existence.

CEOs and senior leaders are notorious for running these meetings, naively believing that this is a great way for everyone to hear what’s happening across the firm. In reality, people mostly tune out and focus on planning their own update that no one will listen to. 

You could instead share relevant news, including financial results, big customer wins or updates on organization-wide initiatives. Also, extend the offer for individuals to raise important issues.

If something noteworthy and not widely known has occurred, someone should share it. If one group needs help from another group, raise the request. Otherwise, do not compel all of the attendees to share.

Updates Via Technology

There is no need to call a meeting for something you can look up. Leverage the technology tools of the day to ensure your work teams maintain a current and visible status update where everyone can see it with the click of a mouse.

If you must meet, cut the planned meeting time in half or use agile approaches and run short “stand-up” sessions. Be draconian about the digressions and distractions that elongate these sessions. Focus on sharing status' and require people to tackle issues outside of this forum.

Unstructured Brainstorming Meetings

Work to define the brainstorming topic and share it with invitees ahead of the session. Collect their input and consolidate and post it or share it without attribution to the ideas. Use the live session to jump and build on the submitted ideas, adding to the list.

Resist the urge to evaluate ideas in this session. Incorporate other techniques that minimize socialization pressures, such as brain-writing. And above all else, consolidate the ideas and create a non-meeting type process to evaluate them. Once they are duly evaluated, archive them for easy group reference in future sessions and situations.

In-Depth Operations Reviews

Keep the deep dives and corporate exams private and focus on sharing key operating indicators, problems, and opportunities. The group meeting is not the time or place to rip apart an underperforming area or individual.

Set up a follow-up meeting on the spot, but do not subject everyone else to your visible cross-examination on this issue. Do not back off on accountability for improvement, but eliminate the public shaming from your meetings. 

Remove Spontaneous Decision-Making

Strangely, the meeting room is one of the worst places for quick decisions. Raising an issue for the first time and calling for a decision puts people on the spot. Decisions usually require information and preparation. They may not have the appropriate information in front of them, or been brought up to speed on the matter.

You could instead work ahead of group meetings to engage key stakeholders on issues and options. Solicit their input, offer your perspectives and work to broker shared interests. Use the meeting forum to validate the interests of the stakeholders and identify their recommendations.

While you may still not get the immediate decision without another step or two, you will have strengthened your working relationships with your pre-session work, and saved time in the process.

Final Thoughts

Humans are communal creatures by nature. Although a variety of technology tools exist that enable us to connect without being in the same place, sometimes it helps to be face-to-face.

Leverage this time wisely and show your respect for participants by producing meetings that minimize the time invested and maximize high-quality information sharing in a non-threatening environment.