Top Tips to Reduce Wasted Meeting Time

BY Kathy Crosett
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It’s already March. You may be feeling those January resolutions you made to improve your business slowly slipping away. It doesn’t have to be that way. You could tackle one small management issue and focus on fixing it. Why not start with meetings? Few activities waste more time and cost a business more money than unproductive meetings.

Cut Back the Number of Attendees

One major meeting problem relates to bloat. People become accustomed to attending a meeting because it’s a weekly department update. Every person who is sitting in the meeting could be getting something else done. They could be resolving a customer service issue or writing tomorrow’s blog post. If they are instead listening to your rant about how the sales department is selling features your product doesn’t have yet, you’re costing the company money.

Each person who attends the meeting should be a major contributor. Steven Rogelberg, author of "The Surprising Science of Meetings," observes that many employees love meetings, especially remote meetings. They can blend into the background, space out and call what they are doing work time. That’s a lose-​lose situation you should fix.

Look over the weekly meetings on your schedule. Is every attendee a major contributor? If not, uninvite some attendees. Solicit input ahead of time from minor contributors and uninvite them as well. After the meeting, send out a summary email to attendees and other employees who need to know what happened. It will take them ten minutes to read about the results instead of spending an hour of unproductive time attending the meeting.

Reduce the Scheduled Meeting Time

Did you know that scheduled sit-​down meetings last 35% long than stand-​up meetings? That’s another statistic from Rogelberg’s research on business meetings. We really can’t blame our team members for extending sit-​down meetings. It’s relaxing and usually enjoyable to have another cup of coffee and a donut and catch up with employees they don’t see very often. 

News flash! Meetings shouldn’t be used for catching up. As a manager, you can get the message out to your team members. The meeting will focus on identifying and talking through resolutions to key issues. Create an agenda and tell each attendee which item they are responsible for discussing and ultimately resolving. 

Then take a page from your favorite thriller or action flick. Set up a ticking clock. Don’t allow Microsoft Outlook or other calendaring tools to control your timeframe. Allocate an unusual but hard stop for the minutes such as 42 minutes after the hour. With that deadline looming, ask an attendee to keep reminding everyone to stay on track during the meeting.

And to show everyone you care about the qualify of their work life, bring in donuts or fruit on random mornings. Invite everyone to enjoy a quick 15- minute chat time before the work day heats up.