7 alternatives to time-wasting, morale-draining meetings

Today’s fast-paced work environment demands optimum productivity and staff engagement. The tired, old gathering at the conference table just won’t cut it. Try these options instead.

7 meeting alternatives

Meetings are killing productivity. They’re not doing much to energize your employees, either.

No one looks forward to them; they are, after all, dreadful. They rarely start or end on time. They’re boring, especially data dumps, and people start daydreaming or checking email. Most of all, they’re a huge waste of time.

Unproductive meetings cost organizations money, productivity and morale. Unfortunately, they’re a necessary evil.

What if you could reap the benefits of sharing ideas without hosting a traditional meeting? It’s possible, if you use these seven alternatives:

1. Walk or stand.

It’s been found that walking leads to more creative thinking. So, instead of having attendees gather in your office or conference room, “walk and talk.”

Shaking things up, going for a walk outside can improve your immune system, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, energy, and overall happiness. However, reserve this type of meeting when it’s a smaller group, like when it’s just two or three people. Ten or more people walking and talking in a park would be a bit much.

Standing is also beneficial to your health, encourages collaboration and brainstorming and can  reduce meeting times by 25 percent.

2. Meet one on one.

Do you really need your entire team in a given meeting? Probably not. Why not just meet with the most pertinent person for your particular project?

Workers who are forced to endure pointless meetings will quickly disengage and start looking for work elsewhere.

If you find yourself repeating the same information over and over again to specific employees, you can turn those one-on-ones into small-group sessions. For example, instead of having separate conversations with your sales reps—invite them to join you for lunch. At a causal lunch you can answer all their questions. You will avoid repeating information, and the group can brainstorm fresh ideas.

3. Try team-building events.

Team-building meetings are a great way to update everyone on what’s happening and why. Also, using a fun format—something other than your colleagues gaping at a PowerPoint—can improve productivity, creativity, trust, communication and morale.

When planning a team-building exercise, keep it casual, fun and engaging. This could involve inviting your team to a catered lunch, volunteering together or activities like constructing a marshmallow tower.

Just know exactly what you want to focus on, include everyone, make it important, and celebrate your success together.

4. Use online chats.

Thanks to tools such as Slack, Skype and Google Hangouts, you can now have real-time communication with your team to ask questions, share updates or exchange ideas. If you’re not available at the moment, you can view the conversations later.

Online chats are effective and efficient only if you avoid small talk, so keep your team on point. If your team sends an endless barrage of messages, wading through Slack can become a burden.

5. Try collaboration apps.

One purpose of meetings is brainstorming. With collaboration apps such as Trello, Wrike, Basecamp, Google Docs, RealtimeBoard, and Microsoft’s Whiteboard, you no longer have to meet in person.

Try creating a collaborative document with your team, and let your colleagues add ideas and feedback whenever it’s convenient. (This is a good way to mine suggestions from reticent colleagues, as well.)

You can also use these tools to assign tasks, ask questions, map out a large project, and even connect it to your calendar so everyone knows your availability and when projects are due.

6. Schedule virtual meetings.

With video chat and teleconferencing technology, you can still have real-time communication without meeting in person.

Virtual meetings are more flexible and often quicker than in-office meetings.

In order to make your virtual meeting successful, follow this guidance:

  • Adopt a positive attitude to inspire and motivate your team.
  • Prepare and share an agenda in advance.
  • Allow team members to contribute to the agenda.
  • Mix up the format by sharing a TED Talk, inviting a guest speaker or doing a team-building exercise.
  • Be creative. For example, if the meeting ends early, allow for spontaneous discussion.
  • Have your team solve a problem together.
  • Follow up by letting each team member know what they want to do next.

7. Experiment with wikis, FAQ sheets or videos.

Instead of wasting everyone’s time in a meeting, you can use internal wikis, FAQs in a document or video form, or video presentations.

For example, if you just installed new accounting software, your team could experiment with it by watching an instructional video. If there’s a feature they still don’t understand, they can access a FAQ document.

A version of this post first appeared on the Calendar blog.

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