Business meetings are often perfunctory, intrusive, inefficient, meandering wastes of time.
Of course, meetings aren’t inherently bad. They can be quite a wonderful source of edifying, energizing inspiration. Most workers, though, are not so lucky.
Regardless of volume or format, meetings can have a profound effect on morale, engagement and productivity, so it’s well worth exploring how to make the most of group gatherings.
Here are four ways to optimize your time as a team:
1. Keep it light. We can’t seem to cast off the shackles of our meeting “addiction,” but it’s certainly possible to make time together more enjoyable.
Lighten and brighten agendas with a quick game, or earmark five minutes for personal life updates. Your team consists of human beings, and humans typically enjoy talking about themselves. Give everyone a chance to mention—in 30 seconds or less—something they’re passionate about outside of work.
If you’d like to shake things up but aren’t sure how, consider these tips from The Balance:
- Invite guest speakers.
- Celebrate something.
- Have team members take turns teaching each other something.
- Watch a relevant TED Talk.
- Do a team-building activity.
- Change locations, or get out of the office.
- Have a “single-item agenda” meeting.
- Ask for lightning round updates.
- Engage the team in brainstorming.
- Switch chairs; switch anything to break up the monotony.
Meetings should be swift, timed and ruthlessly streamlined. Be respectful of your team’s time by moving quickly through a manageable agenda. Keep your discussion points and key takeaways to a minimum, and try to settle more mundane matters via email.
It’s also wise to tighten up your invite list. Instead of mindlessly summoning droves of ancillary attendees, consider Jeff Bezos’ “two-pizza rule“: If two pizzas wouldn’t be enough to satiate everyone at your meeting, whittle down the invite list.
Above all, make sure your meeting’s purpose is crystal clear. As David Grady notes in his TED Talk: “Attending a meeting without a clear purpose or agenda, and in which you are unsure of your role or contribution, allows others to steal your valuable time.”
3. Share some Sprite—or a digital bite. Don’t ever underestimate the power of treats. Providing snacks makes meetings more palatable, and it’s a simple way to boost morale and engagement.
Don’t leave your remote workers out of the fun. Consider sending out-of-office staff gift cards or thank-you notes periodically—or at least share the emoji equivalent of what you’re snacking on. Digital doughnuts are better than no doughnuts.
4. Let workers mull ideas overnight. Do you have any introverts on your team? Are your conversations typically dominated by the “loudest contributors?”
If so, you might be missing out on spectacular ideas just by dint of your meeting format.
Introverts might not be willing to pipe up in a group setting, but if you give them time to process information overnight and present ideas via email or chat, you’ll receive more thoughtful feedback. Letting ideas marinate for 24 hours can be helpful for extroverts, too.
Chances are you have someone on your team who’s more comfortable presenting ideas in writing rather than speaking extemporaneously. Cater to them by soliciting feedback outside the team discussion.