American companies are not alone when comes to solving the enigma that is a productive meeting. In Europe, companies lost $41 billion (or $26 billion pounds) in 2011 through wasted time in meetings. When you do have meetings, studies have shown, that more than half of your employees will take the meetings as an excuse to daydream.
Meetings last too long and happen too often. Meetings equal time and money, so when you have them, here are some tips on making them count:
Consider Email Instead
How many times have you left a meeting with the thought, "You could've just emailed us that"? Too often meetings are a chance for executives to pass along one-way information. If you find yourself calling a meeting just to share new office creed or report incremental numbers, consider writing a memo to your staff instead. Your employees don't want to spend 30 minutes in a meeting becoming privy to one-way information when you could have told them the same information in a concise, bulleted email instead.
Tighten Your Invite List
If you're not sure what someone's role would be in a meeting other than to sit and listen, scratch them off the RSVP list. Only invite those who are absolutely needed in the meeting. Department heads can always pass along pertinent notes from meetings to their staff.
Someone should always be taking notes in your meetings. For example, after a meeting, send out a succinct memo within the hour recapping the major points and how to move forward post-meeting. The more time people have away from the content of the meeting, the more time they have to forget it.
Keep It Short
Say your quarterly report just came in, and you're about to call a meeting with your staff to go over it. Before you send out an email scheduling a half-hour meeting, share an agenda with actual results from the report, so your staff will know what they're walking into. A simple email with an executive summary of whatever findings your meeting will entail allows your staff to come prepared and focused. A more focused staff will lead to a more focused meeting, which always leads to shorter meetings.
Make Them Collaborative
Meetings should be collaborative, meaning they should focus on input from the appropriate departments or managers. When you call a meeting, make sure the people involved know what their role will be and what will be expected of them, even if they are participating via audio or video conference. Your meetings should have a clear agenda and problem to solve. Consider meetings as a live call to action. Prepare your staff with the appropriate information before the meeting, so they are ready with ideas on how to tackle a problem when the meeting begins.
The more collaborative a meeting is, the less time someone has to day dream.