In a perfect world, meetings would help your company solve complex problems, generate innovative ideas, and build team camaraderie.
Unfortunately, in reality, this doesn’t happen very often.
Time and time again, research shows just how unproductive and wasteful traditional business meetings tend to be. For example, a study that appeared in Harvard Business Review found that a weekly meeting of mid-level managers was costing one organization an astounding $15 million per year. Another study — this one from Microsoft — revealed that nearly 70 percent of employees see meetings as a complete waste of time.
So why aren’t our meetings living up to their full potential? What are we doing incorrectly?
Develop a Winning Strategy
Similar to creating great products, great meetings require thoughtful planning and designing. There needs to be a clear purpose, a clear agenda, and clear goals. Otherwise, you’re holding a meeting just for the sake of holding a meeting, and you will fail to generate the brilliant ideas and strong relationships you aimed to generate.
Further, the purpose, agenda, and goals should be communicated to participants before the meeting. LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner suggests that all materials be distributed at least 24 hours before a meeting begins. Teams should have an opportunity to digest the mission and come prepared to contribute to a productive conversation.
What’s more, when it comes to meetings, bigger isn’t always better. This applies to both the guest list and the time allotment. Forty-seven percent of workers say lengthy meetings are the biggest wastes of their workplace time. Long, drawn-out companywide meetings are surefire ways to spark boredom and disengagement. And if you are holding a meeting with hopes of making a big decision at its conclusion, Google asserts that the guest list should be restricted to 10 or fewer people.
These are just some basic building blocks of successful meetings. In order to truly achieve optimal productivity, you need to add some creative energy into the mix.
Supercharge Your Sessions
It’s time to leave behind the traditional meeting model in which one person drones on endlessly while attendees sit by as passive observers. Here are three engaging strategies you could embrace instead:
Studies show that when employees are physically active at work, companywide productivity, attendance, and happiness all improve. Why not have this physical activity occur during brainstorming sessions?
At your next meeting, try incorporating a few short breaks where attendees are encouraged to stand up, walk around, dance, or do jumping jacks. For shorter gatherings, you could even try removing the chairs from the room altogether and having a stand-up meeting.
At my company, we’ve added a physical component to some meetings by utilizing exercise ball chairs. They get our blood flowing and help keep us focused and alert.
2. Small-Group Presentations.
Even a small meeting can easily be dominated by two or three voices. A great way to ensure everyone contributes is to divide attendees into groups. Then, hand each group a whiteboard, pose a challenging question, and tell them they have 10 minutes to come up with three solutions.
When the time expires, have the groups present their findings and field questions and comments from their peers. At my company, this strategy has resulted in very productive brainstorming sessions and helped us overcome mental blocks.
3. Make It Dramatic.
Divide attendees into small groups and ask a thoughtful question. Instead of handing them whiteboards, ask them to craft a song or skit that demonstrates the solution they propose.
This won’t just get your workers up, moving, and interacting; it will also get their creative juices flowing — something that 75 percent of employees wished they did more often. Amidst the fun, you’ll be amazed by the unique and innovative ideas that surface during this exercise.
In the end, it’s simple: If your meetings aren’t resulting in real solutions and creating stronger bonds within your team, it’s time for a change.
Though nontraditional, the above techniques will add a much-needed spark to your meetings. And, best of all, they will result in productive outcomes that propel your business to success.
Originally published at medium.com