Meetings are one of the necessary evils of the business world. Nobody enjoys them but practicality insists that we continue to have them. Almost without exception, they achieve little more than pulling people away from their own work for a significant portion of time to discuss a range of things which invariably have little impact on their jobs. In recent years a number of leading industry figures have advocated the minimisation of office meetings in helping to boost staff productivity. So, how can you overcome the negative impact of all these meetings while still retaining a good level of communication with your staff? It might actually be easier than you think. Here are 6 novel ideas to freshen up your meeting format and delight your attendees.
Take it outside
If your meeting only has a few attendees then why box yourselves in to the office environment? Instead, take the meeting for a walk. 10-15 minutes of fresh air will energise you and help to bring some new ideas to the table.
New environments tend to breed new thinking and getting outside the box may be just what you need to solve those niggling issues which have been dragging on. There are also considerable health benefits, as outlined in this excellent TED talk by Nilofer Merchant.
Everyone on your team will be taking a break to grab some food at some point in the day, right? So why not utilise this time by getting everyone together to eat? Order in some pizza and brainstorm ideas while getting updates on projects and treating everyone to a tasty snack. It is a win-win situation; everybody gets some lunch, they don’t feel like their work is being interrupted and you still get the purpose of the meeting.
Keep it short
In reality, there should be few circumstance which require a meeting any longer than 30 minutes. Try to plan your gatherings so they can be wrapped up at the 10-15 minutes mark. If you can do shorter then even better!
The longer your meeting lasts, the less interested people become in what you’re actually saying and the more they begin wonder what any of it has to do with them. Human beings have much shorter attention spans than we care to admit, so divide the points of interest in to short snappy chunks and keep everyone on their toes.
Build some rapport
Though you may not consciously realise it anymore, the real purpose behind a meeting is to sit down face to face with your team and connect on a more immediate level. So why is everyone staring down at their agendas?
If you begin the meeting by setting out a stringent plan of action then others will simply follow suit and you guarantee a meeting which is very dull. So try opening things up by beginning with an informal chat which everyone can contribute to – even just asking genuinely how everyone is getting on can do the trick.
After 5 minutes just segue subtly into the planned discussions and you should find that everyone is a lot more engaged with the important points of the meeting.
Firing up a PowerPoint presentation in a meeting essentially acts an invitation for people to tune out – the same goes for presentations – so you should try to avoid them at all costs.
There are now plenty of other options which you can use to help visualise your points to those gathered. Maybe there is a cool infographic or amusing online video which could illustrate your underlying points with a little bit more verve and humour? Do your best to inject a bit of life into proceedings and people will react positively.
Ask people to bring something to the table
It doesn’t have to be something big. If you ask people to come prepared with a topic they want to discuss or something they want to show the rest of the group then you will have people engaged with the meeting before they have even arrived. Not only that but it will make people feel like a valued contributor and gives them a sense that they have a part in shaping the direction and outcome of the meeting. Just make sure they know to keep it short and constructive!