It's not always easy to get your team together for productive meetings that don't run off the rails. Fortunately, you can improve productivity with some simple forward-thinking strategies.
Shorten your meetings. It's no coincidence that TED talks have an 18-minute maximum time limit. Studies have shown that attention spans progressively decline over time. With this in mind, more and more administrators are limiting their meetings to 15 to 20 minutes for maximum impact.
Send out an agenda. Don't just send out a standard meeting announcement. Include key details that will promote a more productive engagement. Tell your attendees how long the meeting will last and detail exactly what topics you plan to discuss. This will help your team better prepare, so it can effectively engage when your meeting begins.
Try standing up. According to a study out of Washington University, meeting participants enjoy enhanced creativity and collaboration when they stand during meetings. Consider doing away with chairs for your next in-house meeting to see if this sparks improved performance.
Leave laptops in the office. After studying the note-taking habits of undergraduates from UCLA and Princeton, researchers found that laptops may interfere with content retention. In fact, they found that students demonstrated much better memory recall when they took notes using a pen and paper.
Create a no smartphone policy. Cell phones can derail even the most structured meetings. Prevent unexpected interruptions by asking your team to turn off their phones. Some offices even ask attendees to label their phones with sticky notes and deposit their the devices in a basket at the door.
Ask if you really need a meeting. When meetings become a mindless routine, they quickly lose impact. Ask yourself if you really need a meeting before sending out invites. Address minor issues by sending out a memo or email and save your meetings for major organizational issues.
Limit your attendees. Instead of inviting everyone you can think of, limit your meeting to people directly involved in a project. This will allow everyone else to focus their limited time on other key tasks.
Alter your environment. You can stimulate engagement and innovation by changing up your meeting locations. Get out of the conference room and take a short walk with key company personnel. Take your team outside or gather for a productive lunch. By changing up circumstances, you can cultivate better engagement.
Stay on task. Maximize productivity by eliminating all irrelevant content. Specifically outline key issues and move from one to the next without getting sidetracked. If your meeting starts going off the rails, quickly command the attention of your team and refocus on the next priority.
Time your meetings appropriately. You don't want your team thinking about lunch or itching to go home when they should be focused on key issues. Try to plan your meetings for mid-morning, when each person's attention is likely to be relatively high.