How to make meetings count

Have you ever felt like your weekly meeting has become set in stone, regardless of whether it’s needed or serves a useful purpose?

Don’t worry if you’ve had these thoughts, as you’re not alone. In fact, 70% of workers, from senior management down to junior admin staff, share your views.

Attendees have described their experience as “frustrating” and “unproductive” for the most part. They have come to dread the weekly gatherings. So, the challenge must surely be how to shape this time with your team into a positive experience for everyone.

© Alex from the Rock /

Making your meetings count is the key to better team bonding and greater efficiency. By endeavouring to create a meeting that is beneficial for all, this will stop some attendees from thinking they’ve just wasted a valuable chunk of their working day.

How can you keep employees interested?

Research shows that poorly planned meetings cause a dip in morale and reduce employee productivity, before and after they take place. Surveys show 64% of us feel more enthusiastic about a meeting that’s well-planned – no-one wants a chaotic experience.

The main concern is understanding the goal of your meeting. Ask yourself if the topic is worthy of a formal get together, or whether it can it be addressed in a different way. Often, no-one dares question their usefulness, but 71% of senior managers admit to having attended or organised an unproductive meeting.

Once you’ve determined whether there’s a valid reason to call a meeting, consider whether all employees in your remit need to attend – some will not value their time in a meeting if the topic isn’t directly linked to them. If they show no interest, this could distract those who need to be there.

All too often, problems arise when an entire department is bombarded with details that are irrelevant and unnecessary to most of them. Smaller can be better when it comes to meetings, so pare your delegates down to those who are actually needed.

How should you prepare?

If you intend to discuss a complex issue, make sure everyone is in the loop and understands the topic. This means distributing background material at least one day ahead of time, so people can read and digest it. Prepare a concise agenda that covers the topic fully, but doesn’t include unnecessary points that veer off the issue in hand.

Almost two-thirds of executives have admitted to chairing a meeting without a set agenda. This can be counter-productive, since its purpose is to provide everyone present with a complete meeting programme. An agenda helps attendees deal with the relevant points in an appropriate timeframe. Without it, discussions can veer off-topic and people may wonder why they are there.

Who should speak at the meeting?

When you’re looking for a key speaker, pick someone who has the respect and trust of the employees. The best type of speaker is one who not only has all the relevant knowledge, but who also has a confident manner and the charisma to hold everyone’s attention.

Their job should be to promote a productive and fast-paced meeting, so if they invite questions from the floor and someone goes off track, they can quickly steer proceedings back to the topic in hand. Pick an individual who has backbone.

Meeting rooms and technology

If your meetings often involve casually sitting round chatting in the general office, this can give the impression they’re unimportant. While it’s good to feel relaxed, this can also be too low-key. Gathering in an official meeting room can help, as it takes delegates outside their normal setting and emphasises the relevance of the get-together. Modern meeting rooms are also more likely to have the latest technology to rise to the challenges of today’s workplace. For example, if you believe certain employees need to attend, but they are based at another site and you’re on a tight schedule, video conferencing facilities can be a massive bonus.

With a growing trend for remote workers, meetings have evolved. Advances in technology mean the way employees connect and communicate have changed. Delegates who may have dreaded setting off on a road trip to a meeting, taking up a portion of their working day, don’t need to worry about this anymore.

Hosting a hybrid meeting, with some delegates attending in person and others by a video link, can be a highly productive solution. While 95% of professionals feel meeting in person is more effective to foster good working relationships, there will always be a place for video conferencing in the modern workplace.

Seating and catering

The benefits of using a designated meeting room means you can arrange the seating to your best advantage. While sitting around a long table in the boardroom may have sufficed in years gone by, there are many more efficient ways of organising the room layout today.

Make sure everyone can see, hear and be heard. One-fifth of attendees have cited poor communication at the meeting as ruining their experience. Sitting at the back of a badly laid-out room, where you can’t hear what’s going on, will leave even the most dedicated employee feeling they’ve wasted their time. Finally, although the bottom line is that everyone’s there to work, excellent excellent catering improves the overall experience for just about everyone. Among 18 to 29-year-olds, 71% said having a nice lunch was one reason they enjoyed a meeting.

Don’t leave delegates walking away shaking their head and wondering why they bothered: follow a few simple tips and watch engagement and productivity boom!

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