Few things drain employee morale like a meeting that is too long and isn’t productive. People start to feel frustrated—they have work to do, and the meeting becomes less and less beneficial. The longer a meeting goes, the harder it is to keep attendees focused. In other words, long meetings risk hindering productivity. The goal is to run a meeting that doesn’t run longer than necessary; a meeting that is brief yet productive. Here are seven ways to help achieve this goal.

Narrow Your Focus

If your meeting’s focus is too broad you will likely ruin your chances at a quick, efficient gathering. If you have forty different points on your agenda, the meeting will linger on and you’ll lose employee interest, not to mention morale. The most efficient meetings have very specific aims, goals that can be attained in a short period of intense focus. If you try to accomplish too much you’ll either fail miserably, hurting morale, or take so much of everyone’s time that people will start to shut down.

Keep it Small

Large meetings can get bogged down with many perspectives, objectives and interest so effectiveness is hindered by an excessive number of people. If decisions need to be made it’s better to have only the necessary personnel present. Sure, some meetings require the whole team, as big as that may be. But if at all possible it is best to keep your numbers down. A smaller group allows for more conversation and helps ensure that everyone’s ideas are heard.

Stick to the Agenda

Agendas exist for a reason. If you don’t have a meeting agenda you shouldn’t expect a time of productivity. Your meeting needs a direction, aided by conversation points that will help accomplish your goal. Every element of your meeting should be tied to your meeting’s purpose. If you let yourself stray too far from your agenda your meeting will likely devolve into the kind of untamed rambling that is difficult to recover from. A good agenda, which features both conversation points and action points, keeps you focused and on task.  Agendas can also factor in time to deal with unexpected matters. The purpose of an agenda is to keep every aspect of your meeting intentional. Conversations without intention merely waste time.  Place time limits on each agenda item, and if necessary, take specific concerns or conversations into another meeting or within a focused meeting on just that subject.

Prepare

It’s obvious that a speaker who comes into a meeting unprepared will inevitably cause a less productive meeting, wasting valuable time. But while a speaker’s preparedness is important, this is also true for meeting attendees. If you know what your meeting will consist of (because you’ve prepared your agenda), you can equip attendees before them. Providing them with some initial information to prepare them will go a long way in keeping your meeting brief and productive.

Consider Location

Your meeting location itself can play into the length of your meeting. Some places feel more leisurely, making it easier to spend more time. A room with comfortable chairs, for example, can have a tranquilizing effect. Similarly, a warm room with dim lighting can cause lethargy, which certainly doesn’t help speed things along.

Limit Distractions

Distractions such as phones ringing, pagers going off or even attendees entering late or leaving early can limit the productivity of a meeting.  However, so can deadlines, lunch times or eagerness to get home at the end of a hard day can equally hinder meeting effectiveness.  If you must have a meeting around the noon hour, bring in a catered lunch just before the meeting.  Close doors, turn off phones or make arrangements for someone else to cover areas during meetings.  Encourage on time attendance and meeting attendance for the full duration.  Avoid scheduling meetings when end of month reports or goals are necessary.

Assess Your Audience

The length of your meeting will also be affected by the mental climate of those present. A room full of prepared and energetic people will produce a better, faster meeting than a room full of ill-equipped and drowsy individuals. If people come to a meeting without a good mindset it will take longer to be productive—if productivity ever occurs! If you find yourself with a group like this it may be better to reschedule your meeting. If you try and force it you may end up with a lengthy meeting that doesn’t really achieve much of anything.

Conclusion

Meetings don’t have to be lengthy to accomplish a great deal. Use these seven tips to ensure that your time, and that of your attendees, is not wasted. Time is precious, and with the right tools you can create meetings that are brief yet highly productive.

Need help with your next meeting or event?  Contact Gavel International to learn more about how meeting planning can help your business.