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7 Tips for Better Business Meetings

“I really wish my company had more unproductive meetings!” Said nobody. Ever.

If you have sat through bad meetings, you’ve likely contemplated hours of your life that you will never get back. It’s sad, but true. There is a terrible meeting happening right now. You might be sitting in one at this very moment, multitasking on LinkedIn. If so, based on my recent informal survey, you are also annoying the heck out of someone else in the room.

Tip #1 - Establish a "no multitasking rule” for all meetings. Attendees using their phones and laptops is one of the most common complaints about why people hate meetings.

Then again, if the meeting was better, perhaps participants would be more focused and not feel the need to pretend they are looking for an email about the thing you just said. (That you will need to repeat.)

Here are a few more tips to help make your meetings more worthwhile:

Tip #2 - Set an agenda with clear goals. Without an organized map, you’re just on a long, winding, painful road to nowhere.

Tip #3 - Use the majority of the meeting to focus on solutions and assigned actions. By far, the thing that would make people choose cleaning a public toilet over sitting through a long meeting is the amount of time focused on problems with no actionable solutions.

Tip #4 - Make sure every attendee has a reason for being in the room and that they know why. If you establish that you need someone’s brain, be sure to use it.

Tip #5 - Stay on track but allow for creativity. Make sure you have a facilitator that keeps the meeting on course, and who also fosters trust. You want them to bring out the best from everyone.

Tip #6 - Meetings are best suited for interactive communication. If you want to keep people “in the loop” and/or have them “report out” updates, use email or other online collaboration tools.

Tip #7 - Have a follow-up plan. How productive you are in the meeting will best be determined by what actually happens after the meeting. Note that accountability doesn’t always require another meeting; see #6.

Tip #8 - Create a “listen to understand” culture. This is very different from a “listen to respond” culture. You know which one you have if people are constantly interrupting and talking over one another.

Changing that will make a difference that resonates far beyond the walls of the conference room.

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