A recent Microsoft report noted that while people are in three times more Teams meetings and calls per week now than in 2020 – an astounding 192% increase – the problem isn’t meetings, it’s that they are not productive.
In my view, meetings have spiralled based often on a lack of pre-meeting resources. In other cases, inefficiency can be chalked up to too-lengthy meeting times or a lack of tools for engagement.
Organisations are spending increasingly more time collaborating, but the results aren’t showing it.
As leaders consider the role of meetings, it is clearly time for a reboot. But what does that even look like?
Here are three ways leaders can overhaul their meetings to elevate human strengths, increase engagement through inclusivity and, importantly, facilitate greater productivity.
1. Re-evaluating your ‘before’ and ‘after’
Rebooting a meeting starts at the very beginning when deciding who should be in the room and what the overarching goal is.
Leaders also need to consider how they are going to conduct the meeting, whether through a traditional agenda, project management platform, or the incorporation of tools that encourage engagement.
When building out these foundational elements, preparatory work is essential.
Giving attendees materials and an agenda in advance caters to every work style and allows for individual preparation so contributors don’t feel the need to brainstorm on the spot.
Preparatory work can also be conducive to getting conversations up and running as early as possible and avoiding unnecessarily long regroups.
Organisations are spending increasingly more time collaborating, but the results aren’t showing it
The importance of feedback and analysis
A proper meeting reboot should also involve analysing the performance of the meeting after it has taken place.
Meeting leaders can use tools to see feedback on which slides provoked the most – and best – engagement and responses.
This type of data, like the number of clicks, volume of chat responses and Q&As, can be gathered from meeting platforms and housed in interactive slide decks. Information can also be gleaned directly from employees through follow-up surveys and polls.
2. Encouraging active participation to foster collaboration
Workplaces thrive on collaboration. Every team member brings to the table a unique perspective based on past experiences and earned knowledge.
When brought together in teams, these different perspectives drive results. But it’s the responsibility of meeting leaders to make effective decisions about their modes of engagement– am I just looking to get a quick answer and move on, or am I trying to open up a more detailed discussion?
Presenters should look for opportunities to elevate ideas and build community.
On paper, this doesn’t look the same for all participants, so it’s essential that meeting leaders provide multiple ways to engage with their content.
Presenters should look for opportunities to elevate ideas and build community
Breaking down barriers
This may include breaking down virtual barriers to engage everyone in hybrid settings and maximise productivity, down to the practical level of ensuring video links are included, recording meetings for absent participants, remembering to share a screen, or providing an engaging presentation platform to get everyone involved.
Regardless of where participants are logging in from, there are tools that facilitate anonymous engagement through Q&As, polls, reactions and comments, all of which can be used to express different forms of verbal and nonverbal input.
Even for those attending meetings in person, not having a name ascribed to an idea can make sharing it feel like much lower stakes.
In fact, according to a 2022 survey for both in-person and virtual meetings, over 71% of participants want anonymous ways to engage.
With multiple channels for engagement on participants’ side, they may be more likely to express strong opinions or voice thoughts they may not have otherwise, keeping the conversation moving and setting a precedent for nonjudgmental participation.
3. Being mindful of when to speak up, and when to listen
Although leaders spearhead meetings, they should certainly not be the only ones talking or sharing ideas.
Today’s workforce requires a listening leader – one who encourages participation in many forms, leads discussions and facilitates fruitful and productive conversations.
Effective leaders look for opportunities to ask questions wherever relevant or possible, knowing that the answers to some of their organisation’s biggest pain points won’t come from the top down.
Although leaders spearhead meetings, they should certainly not be the only ones talking or sharing ideas
Making use of presentation tools
The traditional method of hand-raising is not ideal for everyone, though. When it comes time for meeting leaders to ask questions, leaning into presentation tools can help elevate and level every voice in the room.
During meetings, leaders should pay attention to people trying to interject who may be overpowered by stronger voices.
The simple gesture of saving space for someone to get a word in goes a long way in showing you are paying attention and value the opinions of everyone in the room.
During meetings, leaders should pay attention to people trying to interject who may be overpowered by stronger voices
The role of meetings in 2023
Time spent in meetings is high-value time and should be treated that way. Organisations can draw direct lines from employee synergy to improvements in company culture, more impressive ideas-generation, and even increased ROI.
As the workplace evolves, meetings will continue to play a critical part in harnessing the human innovation, ideas, and collaboration necessary to ensure a productive workforce.
By considering these best practices against the backdrop of today’s workplace, business leaders will enable greater contributions from their employees while also creating a positive, inclusive space to work where everyone feels they are contributing to their organisation’s success.
If you enjoyed this, read: The science of meeting dynamics and how to influence them