It isn’t everyone’s idea of a good way to spend an afternoon - shut in a room with colleagues debating the future of the organisation. As activities go, work meetings are often shoved into the category of ‘things which make you sleepy’. However, they can really be useful tools in terms of keeping morale up and improving team communication.

If each organisation tried to organise effective and engaging meetings, they would likely become less of a source of hatred.

According to a survey by Salary.com, office meetings were ranked as the top productivity killer. This cements the idea that we are probably doing meetings wrong, as they are meant to improve the productivity of a team.

We will take a look at what can be done to try and avoid the “why am I even here?” question popping into all employees’ heads. There are plenty of tips for ensuring that people stay off their phone a little longer, and pay more attention to what is said during meetings.

What are some common methods to help conduct better meetings?

There is a whole host of things that can get in the way of an effective meeting, from an uncomfortable room to distracting ringtones. Fortunately, there are some things you can keep in mind in order to ensure everyone gets the most out of the meeting.

  • Neal Hartman, senior lecturer in managerial communication at MIT, wrote of seven hurdles to jump in order to create the right atmosphere for a team meeting. One of the main things you can do to foster a productive meeting is set out a clear aim. Generic aims like “progress updates” will produce equally generic and uninspiring meetings. It is important to outline specific things to be discussed beforehand, and maybe even who you would like to hear from during the meeting.
  • Creating a timetable for the meeting will do wonders for keeping people focused. Circulate an agenda before the meeting begins and keep it visible during the meeting itself.
  • It is important to make sure that your meetings start and end on time. If you start to drum up a reputation for someone who extends meetings beyond their end time, people will understandably be much less enthusiastic about attending. A common psychological statistic for concentration says that we cannot focus properly on one task for more than 60 minutes.
  • Email every team member a memo of the meeting, summarising what was said and the important things to remember. Not only will this reduce any potential confusion, but members of your team might feel more inclined to take action as a result of the discussion if they can see their targets in writing.

Some common meeting pitfalls and how to overcome them

Meetings might be doomed to fail from the beginning in some cases. Taking a look at some of the ways in which we can work around some frequent causes of meeting misery would do us all some good.

  • Keep the meeting on track by making a statement when things start to go off the rails. However, this should be done with some tact to avoid being known as someone who simply ignores issues that others try to raise. One way of doing this is with the “parking lot” technique - informing the person raising the irrelevant topic that you will note their thoughts down and put them into a future meeting agenda. This way, your colleague feels listened to and you get to finish the meeting on time.
  • Avoid that situation in which you cannot make any decisions because the right people are not present at the meeting. Reviewing the list of attendees a while before the meeting starts allows you to ensure that the key decision-makers relevant to the topics that will be discussed, are present.
  • Sometimes, it can just be plain to see that the members of the meeting would rather be somewhere else. You can reduce boredom by creating a change of scenery, and holding the meeting in a cafe, park or similar. Hopefully this will give everyone a boost and make the meeting more productive.

Some of the above advice might seem to be common sense, but meetings often spell boredom and pointlessness for many an employee. The more efficient you can make a meeting, the more time that can be spent on work that produces results for your organisation. We are big on productivity here at Guild - here are 10 apps that could increase your productivity at work. Maybe you’ll even find that you free up enough time for some Friday afternoons off!