9 Steps to Make Meetings Short but Impactful

July 24, 2021 at 3:59 PM

Life is short, people. Let’s Keep our Meetings Shorter! Pre-covid, lengthy meetings were usually just a mild annoyance. There was a limit to how many meetings you could have anyway, as there was a physical separation between home and office, unlike now, where virtual meetings have taken over. While there are positives that have come out of this change, some huge negatives have too, which are depressing people, adding to a lot of stress and causing them to be constantly working on the brink of burnout.

Long Meetings Are Ruining Lives & Weighing Down Productivity

Frequent, lengthy and often pointless meetings, usually back-to-back can leave people with no time to actually do the work they have to. Sometimes an entire day can be swallowed up by meetings. Before you know it, you can find yourself in a situation where you’re working later than you should, struggling to meet deadlines. This is not good for mental health, certainly not good for work-life balance and terrible for productivity. Besides, the attention span of humans has been reducing ever since smartphones took over our lives, which has led to lack of patience, focus and the need for instant gratification.

Is It Really Necessary?

One of the first questions to ask ourselves is this, “is it really necessary to have a meeting for [insert purpose]?”. A lot of the time-wasting meetings can be finished off in a few minutes with a quick telephone call, or a WhatsApp chat. This is a starting point. Next, I would like to present 9 steps, which I believe, in my experience, will help us all be more productive, healthier, balanced and less stressed out by meetings. These apply both to virtual and in-person meetings.

  1. Clarity of Objective

    A meeting must have a clear objective and everyone must be informed prior as to what that objective is. The meeting is not to decide what the objective of the meeting is, it is to accomplish said objective.

  1. All Decision Makers MUST Attend

    If meetings are set up with one or more of the key decision makers absent, then hours can be spent discussing something only to realize that no decision can be taken without the missing decision maker(s); who will subsequently be clueless about what has been discussed, necessitating yet another meeting to make the absent decision makers understand what’s actually going on. Absolutely pointless and unforgivably time-wasting.

  1. Be Prepared

    A meeting is the time allocated to discuss and decide, not to research, theorize and “find yourself”. Come prepared, then get on with it. I can’t count the times I’ve turned up at a meeting and one or more people have no idea what they’re actually going to say. Prepare, prepare, prepare!

  1. Punctuality

    Please come on time and leave on time. A lack of punctuality is simply indicative of a lack of respect for other people. Sorry, but that’s just it. Whatever your rank, it makes no difference. Everyone’s time is valuable. If you’re going to be late, you should have the courtesy to inform ahead. Unless a very critical resource is getting late, my advice is to start a meeting on time anyway.

  1. Structure is Important

    We need to structure our meetings, at the very least into one section for presenting/speaking and one section for questions, clarifications and discussions, so that the flow doesn’t get interrupted. It is very frustrating when people are constantly interrupted and precious time is wasted coming back to the topic.

  1. Ask Only Relevant Questions

    There are no stupid questions, but there are countless irrelevant ones! If project A is being discussed, then attendants should not start talking about project B, C or D and confuse people, interrupt the flow and force the meeting to run over time. Be relevant!

  1. Don’t Ask Questions Just to Ask Questions

    While I am a huge proponent of asking questions no matter the rank, I am vehemently against asking questions for the sake of asking questions. Some people ask questions to either get noticed, feel important or trip someone up. Anyone who is intelligent enough will notice this and start losing respect for such individuals.

  1. Mind the Time

    It’s easy to run over time, but it’s not difficult to recover that extra time from the rest of the day. Most people will have other meetings and or things to do. Just as good as it is to come on time, it’s good to go on time. We all know how irritating people who don’t know when to leave a party are. I suggest appointing someone as time-keeper, to remind everyone of the time.

  1. Recap Right Away

    It’s a great practice to leave a few minutes at the end to summarize the discussion points verbally, so that everyone is on the same page. After the meeting concludes, an appointed individual should circulate a brief record of the discussion and action points immediately. This leaves less room for people to forget or for their recollections of the meeting to alter with the passage of time, as it so often happens.

And that’s that. What’s your experience with meetings? Hate them? Love them? Yearning to change them? Let me know in the comments below!

About the Author 

Wasaam has 15 years of experience that comprises Business Strategy, Marketing & Management. He has worked with clients in multiple industries including but not limited to Finance, FMCG, Retail, Telecom & Hospitality.
Apart from his daily involvement in managing the operations as CEO of Loops, he is also a Senior Lecturer for the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing, a Corporate Trainer, Dramatist, and Voicing Artist.
He holds a Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK), in which he holds a Sri Lanka Prize for Marketing Planning. He also has a Masters in Business Administration (AUS). His guidance to the teams at Loops has helped the agency gain recognition for several awards for Creative and Digital excellence.