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7 Tips for Successful Meetings

Thursday, January 19, 2017
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Whether you’re leading a meeting or simply sitting in, there’s plenty you can do to make sure everyone involved gets the most out their time. Putting in the extra effort to make meetings productive is more important than you might think—according to the Muse, management spends 35 to 50 percent of their total work time in meetings. Unfortunately, more than 67 percent of those meetings are deemed unproductive by the executives in attendance.

Of course, meetings don’t have to be a drain on your time and resources! With proper preparation, they can be an invaluable space to communicate expectations and brainstorm new ideas. With that in mind, here are seven tips to help you make a big impact at your next meeting. 

1. Keep Your Briefings Brief 

Brevity isn’t just the soul of wit—it’s an absolute essential if you want to keep your team’s attention during a meeting. According to research referenced by the New York Times, our attention spans are shorter now than ever: eight seconds. Even goldfish have longer attention spans than we do! While your meeting will most likely run for more than eight seconds, it should only be as long as necessary to meet your specific, pre-established objectives. 

2. Don’t Multitask 

While you might believe you’re a master multitasker, the truth is, there’s no such thing. As NPR points out, when we think we’re multitasking, we’re really just shifting our attention from one thing to another. So if you’re in a long meeting, resist the urge to check your phone or draft an email—you might think you’re splitting your attention, but you’re actually allowing your mind to be transported away from the topic at hand. 

3. Really Listen 

Let’s be honest—most of us could work on being better listeners. In a meeting, being a good listener doesn’t just mean sitting there and nodding your head. Instead, actively engage with what the speaker is saying. Have a question? Don’t be scared to ask! If you’re really listening, chances are you’ll have something worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. 

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4. Always Participate 

Speaking of contributing, you should always aim to participate in a meeting, whether you’re running it or not. If you go into the meeting with the intention of participating, chances are you’ll listen more carefully and pay closer attention than you would have otherwise. Even if you can’t get a word in, you’ll have gotten much more out of your time.  

5. Take Your Meeting to Go 

According to Uncubed, conducting meetings while on a walk might not only reboot our brains—and therefore our attention spans—but also help office workers stay happier and live longer. We have so few opportunities to walk during the workday, so transforming a meeting into an opportunity to stretch your legs could improve health and make meetings more pleasant for those involved.  

6. Value Other People’s Time 

If you’re in charge of a meeting, make sure you’ve done all the necessary preparation to ensure that everything runs smoothly. As Magic Johnson points out on the Playbook, there are plenty of ways to make the best use of everyone’s time—from briefing key participants to making sure all necessary technology is working—well ahead of the meeting’s start time. 

7. Value Your Own Time 

Before going to a meeting, ask yourself this—would they have to reschedule if I couldn't be here? If not, you might want to re-evaluate how much time you’re spending in meetings that don’t really inform or concern you. By cutting down the meetings on your calendar and only attending the ones you really need to, you’ll increase the chances that the meeting you do attend is a winning one.

About the Author

Ken Sterling is the senior vice president and chief learning officer at BigSpeak. Ken’s main focus is marketing and partnering with our Fortune 1000 clients to create specialized consulting programs with effective leadership development objectives. Ken is also responsible for BigTechnology, our initiative to develop best-of-breed learning management systems for our clients.

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