Beyond the Agenda: 5 New Ways to Make Meetings More Efficient


Every day, more than 11 million meetings are held in businesses across the US. Some of these meetings are important. But the rest? Ask anyone who has spent the better part of their day sitting in a conference room having pointless discussions — and planning more meetings — and the general consensus is probably that most meetings aren’t worth the time and energy that they require.

Because meetings are so universally loathed, to the point where a number of major corporations have all but banned them, there have been reams of research and advice published about how to make meetings more efficient and less burdensome. A great deal of this advice boils down to having a strict agenda and sticking to it. While that’s certainly helpful, there are actually a number of additional ways to improve the efficiency of meetings that might even be more effective.

1. Schedule Shorter Meetings

Meetings have a tendency to expand to fill the amount of time that you have scheduled. In other words, you might be able to accomplish everything you need to do in 20 minutes, but if you have an hour scheduled, you’re going to fill that hour, even if it’s with mostly irrelevant or off-topic conversations. To combat this, simply schedule less time for meetings. Cut that hour meeting down to 30 minutes, and see how productive you can be in that time. Chances are, in most cases you will be able to cover everything in a shorter period.

2. Demand Punctuality

How much time have you spent sitting in a conference room waiting for all of the meeting attendees to arrive? And there’s always that one person who is 10 to 15 minutes late, who comes rushing in and disrupts the entire flow. One of the most effective ways to keep meetings on track is to demand punctuality. If the meeting is scheduled to start at 9, it begins at 9 — and not a minute later. Don’t spend time waiting for latecomers or getting them up to speed. Eventually, as you develop a reputation for punctuality, others will show up early, and you can remain on schedule.

3. Stand and Deliver

According to research from Brandeis University, holding meetings in which everyone stands is an effective way to make meetings more efficient and productive. Not only are stand-up meetings shorter, but participants actually show greater teamwork and the ability to reach decisions faster when they are standing. There is no measurable difference in the quality of decision making in a stand-up meeting as opposed to sit-down discussions, yet the efficiency is improved considerably.

4. Use Speech-to-Text to Record Meetings

Even when the person taking minutes in the meeting is only charged with that responsibility, the task of taking notes can often slow down the process and interrupt the flow of conversation. By using speech-to-text technology, like BigHand if you’re a law firm, you can record the conversation and effortlessly turn it into text documents. This can save everyone time and ensure the accuracy of the meeting reports. The conversation will flow more naturally, and members of the team who can’t be present at the meeting will have access to an accurate record of the discussion and decisions.

5. Go Outside

Nothing stifles creativity more than being stuck in a bland, airless conference room. That’s why many companies, including innovators like Facebook and Apple, regularly hold meetings outdoors. A change of scenery and fresh air can spur creative thinking and problem-solving, while also improving engagement and limiting the tendency to tune out or get antsy. Consider taking your meeting outside and having a conversation while taking a walk, or scheduling a picnic/working lunch at a local park instead of in a conference room. Best of all, the boost of energy that can come from going outside for a bit can actually improve everyone’s performance for the rest of the day, making it a win all around.

Even though meetings may not always be appreciated or welcomed, they are a necessary part of running most businesses. That doesn’t mean they have to be a major time waster, though, or take up the better part of every day. Try implementing some of these ideas — and then figure out how you will spend all of the extra time you have in your workday.

Jackie Roberson is a content coordinator and contributor who creates quality articles for topics like technology, home life, and education. She studied business management and is continually building positive relationships with other publishers and the Internet community.