Making fun of meetings is a favorite American pastime—and for good reason. The average employee will participate in 62 meetings this month, and 31 hours of that time is considered unproductive. And while there is a lot of talk about how unproductive meetings are, there isn’t an equal amount of chatter about how to make them better. So let’s try to change that by exploring five ways to tinker with your next meeting to make it more useful, decisive, and productive.
1. Make It a Walking Meeting
Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. The regular ol’ conference room can be a bore, so for your next meeting, take it outside and do a walk around the block. It’ll get the creative juices flowing by breaking up the doldrums of the regular workday.
2. Ask a Weird Question
How often do we have the same meetings with the same agenda items where we all go through the motions? Throw a wrench into that by asking a question that is tactful but will catch everyone off guard. For example, a marketing team might ask, “What aspects do you like about our top competitor?” Unexpected questions can stimulate unique conversations and thoughts that otherwise might not ever be brought up.
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3. Shorten Its Length to an Odd Number of Minutes
When is the last time you had a 17-minute meeting? Never? By setting a shorter, more unique meeting length, it’ll ensure people stay attentive to the tasks at hand to stay on time. So, change your next 30-minute meetings to 23 minutes.
4. Bring in an Outsider
When you have a problem you’ve been working on for a long time, it can sometimes be helpful to bring in a fresh set of eyes (and ears). Find someone smart (and well liked), and bring them in to ask intelligent questions as you proceed through your normal meeting. If they are savvy, they’ll know when to push and when not to. And, through their questions, it might bring out new viewpoints and opportunities.
5. Cancel It
Or, here’s an idea, just cancel your next meeting. Based on the stats cited earlier, there is about a 50 percent chance the attendees will consider it “unproductive” anyway. Instead, try to handle it through email, meeting collaboration software, or in an impromptu team video chat. I hope this list gets your creative juices flowing on how to change up your next meeting. If you do, maybe others on your team will begin talking more frequently about how to make meetings better rather than just about how useless they can be.
About Brian Patterson
Brian Patterson is a partner at Go Fish Digital, an online marketing firm based in the Washington, D.C. area. Brian practices and writes extensively on the topics of Online Reputation Management and Search Engine Optimization. His experience ranges from helping small businesses beat out national brands for top industry keywords to helping Fortune 500 companies protect and defend their online reputations.