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a few young business people make productive meetings

How to Structure Productive Meetings

We’ve all been there. You’ve been invited to or even called a meeting to discuss a specific business challenge. The conference room is packed with far too many people, most of whom have no interest in being there and no skin in the game. The meeting starts off strong, then quickly devolves into three or four competing threads. After an hour of mostly useless conversation, the meeting ends, and nothing has been resolved.

Scheduling a meeting is easy. Structuring productive meetings where important issues get discussed and action plans created is tough. But it can be done if you follow these few simple rules.

Rule No. 1. Create an actionable agenda

When you’re creating an agenda, don’t just list the items you want to discuss. Productive meetings grow out of an actionable agenda and clearly stated desired outcomes. “Discuss vendors for new widgets and identify top three candidates,” says exactly what you want to accomplish. “Widget vendors” does not.

Rule No. 2. Limit attendees

One of the biggest obstacles to holding productive meetings is that there are usually too many people in the room. Before sending out invitations, take some time to think about whose input is critical to accomplishing the task at hand. Invite those people, and leave everyone else out.

Rule No. 3. Distribute the agenda 24 hours in advance

It’s not fair to your employees to announce a meeting two hours in advance. Not only do last minute meetings interrupt workflow, they also don’t give your key participants time to prepare. Distribute your agenda a full day before the meeting so all those in attendance have a chance to review it and think about how to address the issues at hand.

Rule No. 4. Ban cell phones

If your meeting has a clear purpose and you invite the right people to attend, everyone at the table should be attentive and engaged. That means Snapchat and Twitter are distractions you don’t need. Keep your meetings productive by telling everyone to leave their phones at their desks.

No. 5 Keep it brief

When most of us schedule a meeting, we routinely block off an hour and tell attendees to do the same. But usually that’s not because we’ve gone through the agenda and think the discussion will take an hour. It’s simply because it’s what we’ve always done.

Next time you plan a meeting, schedule it for 45 minutes — 30 if you’re feeling brave. Then start on time and stay focused. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done.

Meetings are the bane of the business world. They interrupt important work, and if they don’t accomplish an intended purpose, waste everyone’s time. According to The Muse, 15 percent of most organization’s total worked hours are spent on meetings, and that percentage has increased every year since 2009. Middle managers and top executives spend between 35 and 50 percent of their time on meetings. Even so, nearly 70 percent of U.S. executives think most meetings fail.  

Productive meetings, on the other hand, increase productivity by bringing important stakeholders together to share insights and ideas.

Making them happen starts with you.

At the Carmoon Group, we work with small businesses of all kinds to help them meet their goals. Our over 20 years of experience as small business insurance professionals means we have lots to offer you in the way of insight and advice. So why not give us a call today to learn more about how we can help your business grow. Or, if you don’t have time to call, just fill out our online form and we’ll get back to you right away.

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Floyd Arthur

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