Meetings get a lot of flack. They’re a distraction from other work that needs to get done. Everyone has had the experience of impatiently sitting through a meeting that’s long, rambling, and unproductive.
But meetings are also necessary. Email and chat functions can take care of a lot of the communication needs of modern marketing departments, but they don’t offer the same level of collaboration and brainstorming that’s possible in a meeting.
Meetings give everyone in the department a chance share their views and hear those of their colleagues. And they’re one of the best ways to make sure everyone on a team is on the same page.
You know you can’t give up on meetings, but you also don’t want them to be an unproductive time waster that inspire groans from your marketing staff. The answer is therefore that you need better meetings.
7 Rules to Keep Your Meetings Productive
A few clear, actionable steps can help you make every marketing meeting at your company more useful and less tedious.
- Set an agenda.
If there’s not something specific you want to accomplish in the meeting, why are you having it to begin with? Every meeting you hold should have a goal and a plan.
Take the time to outline exactly what you hope to cover in the meeting and what you want to accomplish in the time allotted. Then make sure everyone who’ll be attending gets a copy of the agenda that provides that information so they can come in prepared.
A meeting that has a clear structure and goal is much more likely to stay on track and accomplish what you need it to than one that’s unorganized and meandering. You can allow some flexibility into that structure – marketers need a little room for creativity, after all – but make sticking to the agenda a priority for the most part.
- Have a time limit.
You know how anytime you have a really tight deadline you somehow figure out how to get all the work done – even if it seems impossible in the moment? When we’re faced with a time limit, we find a way to work within it.
Meetings can benefit from this. The long, rambling ones in which minds start to wander and boredom takes hold don’t have to be the norm. Have a set amount of time for every meeting you schedule – and make it a little shorter than you think you need. If you normally meet for an hour now, see if you can’t hold yourselves to 45 minutes instead.
The shorter time frame will force you to be more efficient and stay on track. And your busy teammates will be grateful to be able to get back to all the work on their long to-do lists faster.
- Don’t overdo frequency.
Are you having weekly meetings just to have them? Look at the meeting schedule you have now and consider if you really need to have meetings as often as you do. If your team is rehashing the same things they talked about last week every time you meet up, then your marketing department is suffering from meeting overkill.
Cut the fat. Make a rule that meetings only happen when they’re needed and that only those team members that need to be there will be expected to show up. That can clear up some people’s calendars and help them focus on the rest of their work uninterrupted.
- Have a no-meetings-allowed day.
Speaking of freeing up calendars, some companies have committed to making one day a week meeting free. No one’s allowed to schedule meetings on that day – it’s a day set aside for focused, uninterrupted work.
When Asana implemented NMW (No Meeting Wednesdays), they found that productivity at the company increased throughout the whole week. Having a no-meetings-allowed day that’s acknowledged throughout the company will likely also help your team members with cutting down on frequency as it encourages the mindset of considering how necessary a meeting really is before scheduling it.
- Ditch the screens.
Be honest. You’ve definitely multi-tasked during a meeting before, haven’t you? Checked your email on your phone. Clicked over to your social media accounts. Kept up a chat with a co-worker about last night’s Game of Thrones, rather than staying focused on the presentation.
Most people have. It’s tempting, especially when you’re dealing with those overlong, tedious meetings that this post is meant to help you avoid in the future.
You can minimize the distractions of all team members present by taking the simple step of banning all computers, phones, and tablets. It might not be a popular move, but you’ll immediately see a more focused, attentive group of meeting attendees.
Notebooks are allowed though. People can take notes by hand, which has actually been shown to help you learn better than typing anyway.
- Keep it small.
Not everyone needs to attend every meeting, Keep the meetings on the small side so everyone present can participate and be involved. If you can keep your meeting to less than ten people, then do.
Someone that has a relevant role in the meeting and knows that items on the agenda relate directly to their work will be much more alert and useful in the meeting than someone who feels like they got tacked onto the email as an afterthought. Smaller groups tend to be more engaged, and having fewer people in the room will likely make it easier to stick to your agenda and time limit.
- Summarize what you’ve covered and make responsibilities clear before you wrap up.
We all have a lot of information we’re trying to hold in our heads at any given moment. Your employees could easily get excited about an idea in the midst of the meeting, completely agree that it’s the most important thing to focus on next, then walk out of the room and forget to actually start on it.
If you want to make sure what’s accomplished in your meetings stays top of mind for attendees and makes it onto to-do lists and calendars, then take a minute to go back over any action items discussed. Make sure everyone’s clear on what needs to be done, who’s in charge of what, and when it should be accomplished by.
Then send it all in an email as well after the meeting has wrapped. Having it in writing in a format that’s easy to revisit makes it much harder for people to let it slip through the cracks.Meetings have an important role to play in every marketing department. Make sure the time your team devotes to them isn’t wasted. Plan your meetings well and encourage your team to put these rules into place to make sure every single meeting accomplishes something meaningful.
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