How to run productive meetings (when there are more of them than ever!)

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Article by Tracey MacLennan, Head of Organisational Effectiveness at Insights

Depending on which studies you read, we are spending anywhere between 25 to 50% more time in meetings since the pandemic.

That’s a huge amount of an already busy working week! In particular, being able to connect with colleagues on Zoom or Teams at the click a button means that the amount of time we spend in meetings has skyrocketed. So how can you maximise your meeting time?

Firstly, take a deep breath and ask yourself if a meeting is really needed in the first place! Do you just need to clarify something? Do you just need to let your team member know about something? Not everything needs to be a meeting.

Once you have decided a meeting really is a meeting, how can you make sure it’s an effective use of time? Here are a few suggestions:

Experiment with meeting timings – if you schedule a full hour, the chances are you will fill that time. Try scheduling 45 minutes instead, which will give you some time to decompress and evaluate before you dive into the next meeting.

Be clear on the purpose – consider what a good outcome would be for your meeting. Do you need a decision? Do you want to generate lots of ideas? Is it an update or status meeting? A clear purpose will help you to decide on who needs to attend and how much time you will need.

Create a clear agenda – This helps people to understand what is needed and the expectations of them in terms of preparation and during the meeting. This will also help attendees to decide if they need to attend a full meeting. If input is required for just one agenda point, they can join the meeting at the appropriate time.

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Let people know what you need from them – It often helps to engage people in a meeting if you ask them to bring options and ideas along, to help them feel a sense of ownership. If it’s a progress update, consider circulating key reports ahead of time and using the meeting to answer questions or spotlight key points.

Use your colour energies to your advantage – At Insights we look at personal preference through the lens of colour. Those with a preference for fiery red energy tend to be determined, with a lot of drive, so will make sure actions are tracked and assigned. Those who lead with earth green energy have a tendency towards being more caring, so will be helping to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. Sunshine yellow energy are often sociable and dynamic, so will bring the enthusiasm. You can rely on those leading with cool blue energy (often with precise, questioning qualities) to help make sure the right questions are asked.

Get moving – As part of our wellbeing strategy we have been encouraging our people to make the most of meeting time and go for a walk if possible. Our colleagues have commented that they often feel more connected and have better quality 1-1s when walking and talking rather than sitting at a desk with lots of other distractions.

Ask! – If you’re really committed to improving your meetings, ask your attendees for feedback. “Was it easy for you to contribute?”, “Do you feel like you contributed/gained something of value from the meeting?”

So now you have freed up all of this time you can decide how you want to use it. Here at Insights we have enjoyed regular “no meeting” days across the organisation and people have loved the chance to have some thinking or creative time, time to invest in their development or to take some time out for wellbeing.

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