“Ok everybody, let’s have a meeting in 30 minutes and discuss everything there” This is the kind of line that makes most people roll their eyes in frustration. Nobody likes meetings. This fact alone already puts people in a negative state of mind, making sure (or at least raising the chances dramatically) that the meeting will be inefficient. It’s predetermined.
On the other hand, meetings are both important and useful. Efficient and productive meetings can help accomplish lots of tasks much faster and get everybody on the same page (if needed). But in order to get to the point where meetings will accomplish anything apart from frustration, time-waste and fatigue, you need to get people into a positive state of mind before they start.
Don’t meet if you can avoid
Unless a meeting is an absolute necessity (it’s part of your methodology (scrum, lean, etc), there is important stuff to be discussed, etc) don’t organize them. There are plenty of ways to communicate your message: emails, newsletters, posters, sticky notes, etc. Spare your team the frustration, will you?
Besides, studies indicate that managers spend 70 percent of their time in meetings with an average of 8 meetings during a day. You spend more time doing meetings than you spend working. So if it can be avoided, it’ll be better for you, your team and your project. It’s a triple win right there.
Make them short and to the point
As much as it may seem to be time efficient to discuss multiple matters during a meeting, it’s far from the truth. Each meeting should be scheduled for one specific, important matter. This will help make meetings shorter, more endurable, more productive, time efficient and people just might start not to hate them anymore.
Start at a certain time and end during a certain time. Even if you didn’t make it to discuss everything in the time intended, you should still close the meeting, take notes and come up with a better schedule next time. Make it an ongoing process and always try to make everything quick, smooth and easy.
Make them fun!
People dislike meetings for various reasons, but mostly because they are boring as hell (well, most meetings that is, but not yours!) What you should do is combat the boredom, with best weapons possible fun and humor. A few jokes during your speech or presentation, some good humor, even anecdotes will do trick.
Humor will also help lessen the tension (if there is any), refresh your audience and make time run faster. That’s exactly why great comedians are able to keep their shows go for hours and still have their audience’s attention. You might not be the best comedian ever, but surely you can find a way to make the meetings more entertaining.
Encourage your team to participate as much as possible. Engagement is one of the best ways to make people pay attention. It’s like being in a class: you can sit at your desk and pretend you are listening all day, while your mind is thinking stuff like “I wonder how many chicken wings it would take to feed the entire planet” or some other stupid thing, just to kill time.
But if your professor gets you to stand up and answer a question, you have no other option than to participate and when you do, you will learn something. At the same time, the others will pay more attention, just in case they get asked a question.
Active participation combined with humor is your best shot to make the meetings more productive.
If everybody agrees on something, it’s probably bad
Lastly, if during a meeting everybody agrees on the proposal, then it’s probably a bad one. Either the suggestion is too simple and obvious, which means it shouldn’t be a meeting topic in the first place, or it’s so complex that everybody agrees to just get it off their minds.