Bad meetings drive me crazy. They’re a waste of everyone’s time, don’t lead to much, and take away valuable time from getting actual work done. I wrote a blog about my displeasure for useless meetings and outlined 6 steps to get stuff done. This blog however is focused on 7 things to make the meeting more productive!

I’m not the only one who feels that way. As it turns out, 59 percent of American employees feel less productive because of bad meetings. Is that really surprising, considering that we spend up to 50 percent of our work week in meetings?

As a result, we tend to consider meetings as necessary evils. Yes, we have to get status updates and get everyone on the same page. So we suffer through yet another unproductive get-together that could be better spent literally anywhere else.

If you feel the same way, I have some good news: it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, conducted the right way, meetings can actually be productive. I’ve used these 7 techniques to make sure meetings stay on track, and actually become valuable parts of the typical work week.

1) Make Sure the Meeting is Actually Necessary

The worst kinds of meetings are the ones where everyone feels all essential information could have been communicated in an email message, or a quick instant message using Slack, Skype, or any other IM tool on the market. If that’s the case, you’ve lost the room before the conversation even begins. Instead, your first step should always be making sure that the meeting is actually necessary.

You can accomplish that feat in a number of ways. First, consider the number of potential attendees. The larger the group, the more necessary it might be to get them together. Next, distill your core goal and objective down to a single sentence. When you look at it, does it need clarification or input? If so, a meeting is the natural next step. When in doubt, ask a potential attendee for their opinion on whether or not you should call for the meeting.

2) Set and Communicate Meeting Objectives

Every meeting has an outcome. The goal of the organizer should be understanding that desired outcome before it even happens. Just as importantly, everyone attending should be aware of what that objective is before they walk in the room.

Depending on your industry, team, and expertise, that outcome may vary from planning a new project to simply getting a status update. Either way, everyone should walk in the meeting understand what they want to walk out of. That way, it’s much easier to keep everyone on schedule and on topic.

3) Never Show Up Empty Handed

This is a rule I subscribe to for every single member of the meeting. Put simply, I never understand why some attendees show up without the ability to write notes. If you cannot get anything noteworthy out of it, did you really need to attend? Or did you only complicate the scheduling and meeting itself through your attendance.

That sounds harsh, but it shouldn’t be. Someone who attends a meeting they don’t need to be at would probably rather be elsewhere. For the others, take notes. Whether it’s on a laptop, tablet, or simple sheet of paper, make sure you can write down any questions, follow-ups, and tasks as you are discussing them.

Unless you have photographic memory or are rain man, chances are you will forget key pieces of information, so please take notes. And if you are rain man, I’d like to have a chat about counting cards.

4) Take the Distraction Away From Attendees

If I were to venture a guess, nothing drives people in meetings more crazy than others not paying attention. That comes down to both respect and productivity. Advise every attendee to shut down their email, browser, and other forms of communication and distraction from the start. That way, you avoid the lack of attention that can be so frustrating.

Social media is especially bad. Yes, it’s a time suck, and I understand it can be addicting. Still, a meeting is not the right time for it. Set a good example, and remind everyone from the start that the more everyone focuses on the topic at hand, the more effective the meeting will be.

5) Encourage and Require Open Communication

Every meeting, especially as the number of attendees grows, will consist of both extroverts and introverts. If you’re not careful, the former can easily overtake the leader, and get a tight grip on the conversation. Try to avoid it by calling on those who might otherwise stay quiet, and asking for their opinion. Remind everyone that active participation avoids groupthink and can lead to actual, productive consensus.

That participation also helps to prevent one of my biggest pet peeves in meetings. Having to answer a question we just discussed in the meeting simply isn’t productive. Instead, don’t shy away from questions and clarification requests. If you can encourage others to do the same, all the better.

6) Set an Agenda, and Stick to It

In any meeting, you have to be respectful of other people’s time. If it’s on the calendar for 30 minutes, you shouldn’t spend 25 of them on introductions. The best way to avoid that pitfall is to set an agenda, and stick to it.

Ideally, that agenda clearly identifies the meeting objectives. You can also add specific time slots for individual discussion topics, so you always know when to move on. And of course, you should avoid being late at all times. It’s tough to stay on schedule when the meeting starts 10 minutes late to begin with.

7) Never Leave a Meeting Without Clear Next Steps

As part of your agenda, make sure you incorporate action steps. At the risk of sounding harsh, the meeting will probably be a waste of time if everyone leaves and nothing is done as a result of it. In the best case, these action items include a timeline for completion and a point person responsible for guiding them through.

Leave at least 5 minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss these items. That way, everyone knows exactly what needs to be done, and who will be responsible for it. By the next time the same group gets together, you can start the meeting with a follow-up on each of these steps.

Enhance Your Marketing Efficiency with nvision

Meetings, ultimately, are all about efficiency. You have to make sure that they actually add to, not distract from the daily productivity in your organization. The above tips can help you accomplish that, just as they’ve helped me better organize, conduct, and follow up on meetings.

That efficiency matters just as much in your marketing plan. Without a clear strategy and plan for execution, you will not spend your money wisely no matter how hard you try. To get to that point, you might need help. Contact us to learn about the ways in which nvision builds efficiency in marketing for our clients.

Originally published on

2 thoughts on “7 Tips for More Productive Meetings

  1. Good article. With the technology rapidly destroying the quality of human interactions, many people losing the ability to stay focus more than 15 minutes. I would also recommend a tip to keep attendees interspersed and involved in the discussion: making sure you are passionate about the meeting and every topic. Especially if some of the topics are bad news – being enthusiastic about solving them – makes people listen 🙂

    1. Thank you for the feedback Olga. I feel technology has made some incredible advancements in our ability to interact, the problem I see is we’ve become dependent on it and beyond the dependency the fear of missing out (FOMO) and the insatiable desire to constantly check in creates a lot of inefficiency. Saying that, I’m in agreement with you, ensuring everyone is involved in the conversation, being enthusiastic and energetic garners the best results… typically… 🙂 Appreciate the feedback, glad you enjoyed my post.

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