Stop Wasting Your Time (And Your Team’s Time) in Business Meetings

As a small business owner, you’re faced with challenges every day, from building a strong and diverse client base to finding the energy to manage and grow business revenue. We all know that too few hours exist in the day, so when it comes to preparing for a meeting (or even finding the time to hold a meeting at all), it can be easy to get overwhelmed.

Meetings are a necessary and vital part to any company. While their obvious role is to keep everyone informed, they also serve to keep team members focused on your company’s vision and mission.

But they’re also almost always the most dreaded part of any work day. Why? You’ve probably already guessed what research seems to consistently prove: Most people think meetings are a waste of their time.

Is there a way to approach a meeting that makes it less overwhelming for you and more meaningful for your team members? We think so.

Three Ways to a Better Business Meeting

1. Take some time to create an agenda.

We all know what it’s like to go to the grocery store without a grocery list. Our cart fills up with everything we’re not supposed to buy and we wind up maxing out our budget before the gallon of milk even makes it into the cart.

This same type of chaos threatens to loom over us when we lead a meeting without an agenda. When we don’t know why we’re meeting and we don’t give clear direction to our team members, the end result is almost always a long and unproductive meeting.

Why? Because when we fail to plan for focus, direction, and commitment, team members don’t arrive ready to make decisions. Instead of leading with our agenda, we wind up giving unclear explanations of our vision, confusing (and frustrating) team members) and failing to nail down clear and useful action plans.

Wondering how to even get started on planning better meetings? This Harvard Business Review article provides a great resource on creating business agendas.

2. Respect the calendar.

Just because our calendar apps provide meeting slots in 30 minute increments, we do not have to schedule meetings to last that long.

Can you accomplish what needs to be said in 10 minutes? Great—then show up with your agenda in hand and get ready to be productive. Do you need a full hour? That’s okay, too. Just be sure that you carefully plan the items on your agenda so that when the hour is up, the meeting is, too.

3. Be Flexible. Ask Good Questions.

Too often, meetings are filled with meaningless information, defensiveness, and lack of preparation. It’s no wonder that people hate them so much. With just a few small changes, you can bring value to a business meeting—and remind your team members that they are a vital part of your company culture.

  • Can this be said as effectively over email? Then skip the meeting (i.e., updates that don’t require focus, direction, or commitment). Your team members will appreciate your respect for their time.
  • Wanting to spur on creative thinking? Then consider trading the conference room for a walking path. Research draws a clear connection between walking and increased creativity in meetings.
  • Encourage everyone to speak up. Sometimes, the quietest people in the room have the best ideas—their voices are just overpowered by the extraverts in the room. Be willing to follow up one-on-one with those team members, asking them directly for their input. Just be sure that you’ve created a safe space for team members to share. No one wants to talk if they know that the last guy to speak up lost his job as a result.
  • What concerns do your team members have? When you’re building your meeting agenda, reach out to your team members and ask if there’s anything they’d like to see covered in the meeting. Just be sure to provide the agenda ahead of time so team members can look it over and know exactly what to expect during the meeting.

Looking for some creative ways to build effective business meetings? More on that with our next blog.

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