Although essential — and an asset to your agency — meetings can be a drag. Most attendees think they’re a boring and unproductive waste of time. Some, rather than focus on the content of the meeting itself, make to-do lists of all the things they could be doing instead. That makes meetings not just a waste of that person’s time, but everyone else’s as well.
However, this tendency toward boredom can be easily corrected by identifying and resolving a few common meeting mistakes. Meetings seem straightforward: Meet with clients or team members, make decisions, tackle your after-meeting tasks. But that’s rarely how agency meetings work.
Here are eight ways your team may be making meetings more difficult:
- Meetings are lacking a purpose or agenda.
What’s the point of the meeting? If you can’t answer that, attendees are going to perceive it as unnecessary. When that happens, you’ll face a frustrated and tuned-out audience.
To ensure your meeting is effective and efficient, you first need to determine its purpose. Create a detailed agenda that gives the meeting structure. At a minimum, the agenda should cover the topics that will be discussed and for how long. This lets everyone know what to expect and how to prepare, and it keeps the meeting within the allotted time frame.
- The meeting is too bloated.
When you schedule a meeting, don’t invite everyone within your agency. That doesn’t mean people should be left out in the cold. But too many cooks in the kitchen can cause confusion, and it’s wasting people’s time if they’re not true stakeholders.
Only invite key decision makers. You can let everyone else know what was accomplished in a follow-up email. This way, you aren’t pulling people away from their work, and you avoid groupthink.
Keep your meeting concise. You probably don’t need to block out an hour. Most of the time, you can get everything accomplished in 30 to 45 minutes. Time is money, especially in the agency world.
- The audience isn’t engaged.
Want your meeting to be productive and memorable? Your audience needs to be completely engaged, from start to finish. Reduce distractions by asking colleagues to leave their electronic devices in their offices.
Additionally, ask questions and use interactive activities. Reserve discussions for the end of the meeting, but earmark irrelevant topics for another time. Consider standing or walking meetings to keep the blood pumping, and provide refreshments. Human needs can derail the best-laid agendas.
- The meeting happens at the wrong place and time.
This probably isn’t top of your mind, but the location of your meeting can determine how successful it is. For example, do you really want to keep everyone cooped up in a windowless room on a sunny day? People’s minds won’t be focused on the meeting; they’ll want to be outside.
A strong meeting location is comfortable and will fit your specific meeting needs. It should also let in natural light and have good acoustics and air flow. If it’s outside your office, find a convenient location for invitees to get to.
What’s more, meetings should take place at the right time. Ideally, this should be based around when your team is most productive. Let’s say that the majority are most focused in the morning. Don’t schedule meetings at this time — it’s better spent on more important and intensive work. Science has found that Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. represents the best day and time for meetings, but that may not be true for your agency. If you’re unsure, poll staffers.
- No one’s in charge.
Every meeting needs a facilitator, the individual who creates the agenda and ensures the meeting stays on track. Without this person, it’s incredibly easy for a meeting to become chaotic and disorganized. One person, for example, can dominate an entire meeting, resulting in the team taking a path most disagree with.
- It doesn’t start or end on time.
Meeting spillover is disrespectful of others’ time. If the meeting is set to start at 3 p.m., that’s when it should begin — no exceptions. If it’s set to wrap up at 3:30 p.m., that’s when it needs to conclude. You may want to assign someone as timekeeper or set your phone to issue a five-minute warning.
- You’re not harnessing the power of technology.
Technology has definitely made meetings easier. Video conferencing allows you to conduct a meeting, no matter where you or your team members are located. Online calendars and scheduling tools allow you to quickly find availability rather than exchange back-and-forth emails to plan a meeting.
More promising are AI and machine learning. Intelligent calendars analyze past meetings in order to make suggestions on when and where to schedule your next meeting. These calendars can also recommend who to invite and what to discuss.
To get the most out of technology, however, you need to embrace it, not fear it. Also, make sure to take the tech for a test spin to make sure it’s right for your agency and to reduce technical errors.
- There aren’t any task assignments or follow-ups.
At the end of the meeting, you need to assign tasks and responsibilities to specific team members with clear expectations. A follow-up email should recap the key takeaways and task assignments, as well as what’s to come.
While some of these mistakes may seem like common sense, hectic days and steep workloads can make even the savviest of agency leaders forget them. By nipping these in the bud, you can be certain your agency’s meetings will be productive and engaging from this point forward.