More Motivation for Meetings: How to Optimize Your Meeting Culture and Get Out of the Time Trap

Friday, 21. September 2018

Many know the feeling all too well that the sheer number of meetings prevents them from getting their regular tasks done. In fact, research by Bain has revealed that many office workers spend up to 50 percent of their working time in meetings. Since there are so many meetings to attend, neglecting other things cannot be neglected – this causes frustration. Moreover, meetings quite frequently don‘t lead to any considerable results.

One problem almost always mentioned at once: meetings last too long on a regular basis. This causes stress because either the next meeting is already scheduled or deadlines for other tasks are jeopardized by the delay. This is even more annoying when you didn‘t even come to any sensible result in the meeting. 

So, are meetings just a waste of time? Probably not, since interacting personally and mulling over things together are approved methods to develop new ideas. So what can you do to organize meetings which are fun to attend in order to discuss a certain topic on the one hand and on the other hand end up with feasible results providing benefits for your company? 

The „Lucky Seven“ for a Positive Meeting Culture

  • 1. Strict Guidelines

    uhr webFirst, the following general measures should be taken: a) Set a mandatory agenda concerning a certain topic. b) Distribute the agenda to everyone invited in time. c) Stick to the agenda. The benefits are obvious: The topic is narrowed down clearly. Everyone involved has got the opportunity to prepare themselves thoroughly, so you don‘t need to spend time on updating people first. Thus, you can start discussing right away and will ideally reach feasible results in the time set.

    Tip: You may set a tight schedule for meetings. This way, no one will even consider wasting time as in “Let me just get some coffee first...”, since they will need to have a result ready by a certain point of time. However, this recommendation is only applicable for questions that can in fact be solved within a manageable span of time.

  • 2. Moderation

    Meeting verzweifelt webEverybody has been there: the discussion just won‘t end – especially if one or more attendees use the meeting as a platform to distinguish themselves. There is only one thing that will help: strictly moderating the meeting in order to cut down over-the-top contributions or co-presentations. At the same time, it‘s important to get more introvert attendees to talk. Just because they didn‘t say anything doesn‘t mean they don‘t have any ideas, after all.  Whenever the conversation is characterized by a balanced, trustworthy atmosphere, people who are rather introvert come out of their covers. 

    If the discussion is just not going anywhere it‘s even recommendable for the moderator to defer the meeting to another day – and maybe also to a different place because sometimes you just can‘t come up with creative thoughts in a business-like conference room. What about an excursion to the next café instead?

  • 3. Get Rid of Disturbing Factors

    tablet reading webNobody will feel irritated by me just quickly checking e-mails on the smartphone or tablet, right? The answer is „Yes, they will!“. According to a survey by Bitkom three quarters of the respondents find other people using their mobile devices during meetings irritating. In this case, persons conducting a meeting should not be afraid to take vigorous action. Sometimes, discipline can be affected positively when you have everybody stand up in your meetings. After all, it’s much harder to hide behind the screen of your laptop when you‘re not sitting.

  • 4. Optimize the List of Attendees

    Liste Schreiben webNo wordy, but not so substantial contributions? No bored attendees playing with their phones? You can reach those goals in a quite simply way: by inviting only those employees to the meeting who really have something to say. You will risk not to reach a broad agreement about decisions made, because those you not invited might feel left out — however, you will be able to find a decision at all in the first place if there are only those people involved who are affected by it.  

  • 5. Make a Note of Achievements

    Teamwork webNote down important milestones you reached during the meeting so everybody can see them — e. g. on a flipchart or on the white board. Thus, all attendees get the feeling that progress is being made. This enhances the motivation of attendees not to lean back and relax now that they are right on the verge of a breakthrough. Any (intermediate) results should also be taken down in the minutes.

    Nobody is really keen on being the recording clerk. However, minutes have very positive effects: They offer a synopsis — even for those who didn‘t take part in the meeting (see attendee list). In addition, everyone can look up which open issues there still are. Also, it‘s very important to determine right in the meeting who will be in charge for taking care about those open issues. In the next meeting, one short look at the minutes is enough and you will be able to start right where you split last time. 

  • 6. Use Other Channels

    wandboard agiles arbeiten webYou can easily outsource unspecific information about the status of a current project or thoughts concerning the agenda item „Miscellaneous“ from your meeting. In order to make things more transparent or to bring in others, who don‘t directly have anything to do with a project, other channels will do. You can spread information from the management by newsletter or intranet, colleagues can discuss how to optimize a certain process via group chat and current progress can be presented on a Kanban board open to everyone. As a consequence, you don‘t need to call in a meeting for all this.

  • 7. One Day Without Any Meetings

    Tippen webYou have optimized your meeting culture successfully? Then, last but not least, please consider this advanced recommendation: Declare one special day of the week free from meetings. On this day, there won‘t be any meetings putting deadlines at stake, so employees can focus on their jobs without being interrupted. The clever thing about this is: The human brain is constantly working on solutions to quesitons which have come up in the last meeting on its own in the background — so next time you meet, a great deal of ideas will be popping up just like that!