Tired of Meaningless Meetings? 13 Tips for a Better Meeting Culture

<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >Tired of Meaningless Meetings? 13 Tips for a Better Meeting Culture</span>

The technology in the meeting room is malfunctioning. There’s no agenda, and the discussions are going in all directions. The clock is ticking, and the stress of trying to keep up with all the other work tasks is increasing. Recognizable? Well, you’re not alone! Unnecessary and ineffective meetings are a common problem in Swedish workplaces. But changing the meeting culture for the better doesn’t have to be that difficult. Here are 13 tips for more effective (and enjoyable) meetings! Information meetings, department meetings, weekly meetings, status meetings… Did you know that we Swedes spend about 30 percent of our work time in meetings? For managers, it can be as much as 60 percent. At the same time, half of all the meetings are perceived as ineffective, according to the conference organization Svenska Möten. This amounts to a total of four work weeks per year that we waste on bad meetings. So, are meetings just a waste of time? No, most people would probably agree that meetings often serve an important purpose when it comes to decision-making, communicating, and planning. In addition, they promote employee participation and influence within the company. However, good meetings don't just happen on their own; they require conscious effort. And companies that are willing to make an effort have everything to gain: fewer productive hours lost and less money down the drain. And, last but not least, happier and less stressed employees.

Often, we set the meeting time to one hour out of habit, but what's to say you can't accomplish what you need to in 45 minutes?

13 Tips for More Effective Meetings

Achieving good meetings is hardly rocket science. Essentially, three things are needed: a well-thought-out meeting policy, thorough preparation beforehand, and good discipline during the meeting.

  1. Develop a Meeting Policy An essential foundation for effective meetings is having standard meeting guidelines. The meeting policy should include answers to questions such as: What do we want to achieve with our meetings? How long should they be? Who calls the meetings? What guidelines do we have, for example, regarding punctuality and phone answering? Last but not least, communicate the policy and remind each other of the guidelines you have agreed upon.
  2. State Your Purpose and Set an Agenda No meeting without a clear purpose. Is the meeting about making decisions, discussing, sharing information, or brainstorming? Create an agenda and set a time frame for each item you will address. Make sure the most critical questions are placed at the top of the agenda, as they are the ones that usually receive the most attention. Also, think about your responsibility as a meeting participant; if you are called as a participant to a meeting without a clear purpose, ask to have it presented to you and the other participants.
  3. Should the Meeting Be an Email Instead? Before sending out your invitation, consider whether a meeting is absolutely necessary in light of the intended purpose. Could a purely informative meeting be replaced by an email? Also, consider if the meeting needs to take place in the office or if a digital one will suffice.
  4. Prepare the Meeting Preparation is essential, especially when it comes to meetings. Send the agenda (including purpose and goals) to the participants well in advance. Clarify how the participants can prepare and how they are expected to contribute. Send out relevant documents and background material in sufficient time before the meeting. This way, you ensure everyone has the same starting point when the meeting begins and avoid wasting time on background details.
  5. Challenge the One-Hour Norm We often automatically set the meeting time to one hour, but what stops you from achieving what you need to in 45 minutes? Or even 30? Try shortening the time and evaluate the results afterward. Hopefully, you’ll discover that you prioritize better and become more efficient if you are mindful of the time allotted for the meeting from the start.
  6. Don’t Invite Everyone Don’t just invite everyone to the meeting automatically; consider who really needs to participate. The purpose and goal of the meeting should always determine the attendee list. Perhaps, not everyone needs to participate in every aspect of the meeting? With the right people present, you will, first and foremost, be more effective. Secondly, you’ll have more energy and motivation, as no one is just “passing the time” and everyone feels they are fulfilling an important function.
  7. Digitize Your Meeting Management There are a variety of digital solutions that simplify the process of creating meeting notes and sharing them with others, such as OneNote, Trello, and Evernote. With the same tools, you can also make the agenda available for colleagues and let them add their own items. You can also save time and organize better by integrating the meeting minutes with your to-do list. In OneNote, for example, you can mark the words you want to turn into a task, and the task will appear with a flag in your Outlook. The task management in Flex HRM is another smart tool that will help you ensure that important tasks don’t fall through the cracks. Here, managers and the HR department can create assignments for various work items and assign them to the right people. The employees will receive a reminder via email or a push notification on their phones when the deadline approaches.
  8. Clear Roles Clarify from the beginning who is leading the meeting – i.e., who is responsible for leading the conversation, ensuring that you stick to the agenda, and distributing the floor. Also, consider an appropriate way to document the meeting and who is responsible for this.
  9. Disconnect All Distractions Complete focus! We all know how phones and other devices tend to distract us. Ideally, you should therefore leave your phone outside of the meeting room. If that’s not possible, use the “do not disturb” function, which allows only a few pre-selected numbers to go through. If you need the computer for documentation purposes, make sure to turn off all distracting email notifications and other alerts.
  10. The Parking Lot Method Even though you have a clear agenda, you will undoubtedly end up on a few sidetracks during the meeting. As a meeting leader, it’s then your job to remind the group that you are deviating from the topic. To keep track of good ideas and save them for later, our tip is to create a so-called parking lot. Use a flipchart or whiteboard to write down all your ideas. Then go through all the items at the end of the meeting.
  11. Be Creative Are your meetings pure sleeping pills? Do you often get stuck on details? Regular breaks and stretching are usually good ways to recharge your energy. Also, try to create variation by including more practical elements and alternative work methods, such as “the beehive” (discussions in small groups), yellow note exercises, or team walks. In this method bank from Vision (in Swedish), there are practical tips on exercises and methods that can help you get discussions going during your meetings.
  12. Be on Time and End on Time Be disciplined and make sure you both start and end the meeting on time. It’s about respecting that everyone’s time is valuable. If not everyone has shown up at the scheduled time, start anyway! This way, it becomes clear to everyone that arriving on time is a principle that you dont’ compromise on.
  13. Round up and Document Round up by summarizing what you have settled on. Be sure to document your decisions and measures. Who does what, and when is it due?

Difficult getting the hours of the work day to last? More effective meetings are one way to free time. Another way to free up time is by implementing a simpler and smarter personnel administration. Flex HRM is the system that transforms complicated and time-wasting manual routines into automated, fast, and smooth processes. How many hours could your company save? Read more about how our overall solution simplifies the workday for managers and employees here.

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