Should your staff walk out of unproductive meetings?

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By Steve Duignan

Last month, in a bid to boost productivity at his Tesla Model 3 car plants, Elon Musk sent out an email to staff in which he made some suggestions on how to streamline working practices. On lengthy meetings and drawn out phone calls, he advised: “It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.” It’s safe to say, we have all sat in unorganised, meandering meetings and wondered 1) what we were doing there and 2) how we could sneak out. Research reported in the Harvard Business Review found that 71% of managers believe their companies’ meetings are unproductive and inefficient. So, what steps can businesses take to ensure meeting productivity?

Taking responsibility

Meetings can be a challenge, especially if they are online. Everyone is in different rooms, different time zones and eventually issues could be encountered, for example two people speaking at once. If not handled correctly, this can be a recipe for an unproductive meeting. Businesses should ensure that their staff are well trained on the best ways to host a meeting in order to get the most out of it. As the meeting host, it’s important to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

For starters, it’s important to realise that we’re human and misunderstandings, accidentally talking over each other or missing something will be inevitable. When this happens, hosts should let the conversation flow if people interrupt, or ask for clarification. However if all the talking is coming from one person only, step in and ask if anybody else would like to input. Everyone should get a chance to contribute, especially if in meetings with stakeholders. It’s important they hear from the whole team, not only to meet them but they’ll create rapport with all members and improve the trust between them. The key to being a good host is not overdoing any of the points made earlier and staying consistent throughout. It’s important to remain flexible enough for give and take but also taking full responsibility of the role throughout.

Take actions and next steps

Once the meeting is over, hosts should make sure to  wrap things up when it’s time to do so. Even if objectives haven’t quite been met, those who attended the meeting should be able to come up with a plan of action.

Those actions can be sent around to ensure everything that is needed, will be completed by a certain time and date. Most of the time, those in businesses will spend more time completing actions and work outside of meetings so it’s important to take advantage when teams do come together. Collect everyone’s thoughts and ideas by gauging the direction of your team. Leaving with a clear list of actions and objectives will also make the next meeting easier as everything has been noted and any outstanding tasks can be flagged.

PechaKucha – the Japanese approach to meetings

PechaKucha is a Japanese style of presenting important information quickly and straight to the point. The objective is to communicate 20 ideas in 20 seconds. Numbers aren’t the most important thing when it comes to this approach, you can present however many ideas you wish, in however many seconds. The point is to conduct a successful meeting where only what is absolutely necessary will be communicated. The PechaKucha technique will also be set the tempo for the meeting itself.

Although the PechaKucha technique may not be possible at all times, presentations can still be used to inform and build context for meetings, especially those that are online. It’s then up to the host whether they would like to open it up questions and other contributions but it’s important to ensure everyone is on the same page first. By editing down points to the essential, clarity is improved, and distractions are reduced.

In some situations, Elon Musk may be right. If the organisation has developed a toxic meeting culture whereby people enter meetings unprepared and leave without outcomes and next steps, the meeting might as well have not taken place. However structuring a meeting and making sure it runs effectively is an art in itself. Following these simple steps will make sure the meeting does not run itself, but instead remains a controlled environment. It’s a great way to ensure each participant has a productive session and leaves with a sense of progress.

Steve Duignan is VP, International Marketing at LogMeIn