How to Stop Distractions in Meetings and Make Sure Things Get Done
Ask anyone in your office how they feel about meetings, and you are likely to get passionate responses on both sides of the aisle.
Meetings Need Clarity and Direction to Make Sure Things Get Done
Some people will argue that meetings provide a valuable opportunity to get all stakeholders in the same place to solve problems, while others will claim that meetings are almost always a waste of time that cause more confusion than problem-solving.
The people on the anti-meeting side of the divide are likely speaking based on negative past experiences, where maybe their boss did not lead meetings with clarity and direction or their coworkers were easily distracted at every turn. Regardless of how they feel, however, meetings are a necessary part of the modern workplace.
This means that the most productive course of action for you and your team is to change negative opinions of meetings by making them run like well-oiled machines. With these simple tips, your meetings will become positive experiences for all stakeholders.
The 4 Tricks to Having More Productive Meetings
1. Set an Agenda
Organization is key to having productive meetings, so start off each gathering with a clear meeting agenda. If you have written out a set of topics or tasks that need addressing during the meeting, there is less of a chance that your team will forget a crucial point or overlook a task.
You can even begin by soliciting suggestions from your team members — send out an email the day before the meeting, asking everyone to send you 1-2 topics they need to address in the meeting. This will serve the dual purpose of creating a useful meeting agenda to make sure things get done and ensuring that team members clarify and organize their thoughts in advance of the meeting.
2. Vocalize the Goals of the Meeting at the Beginning
Stating Meeting Goals at the Beginning of the Meeting Keeps Everything on Track
When everyone settles into their chairs and the initial smalltalk is completed, open up the meeting with a simple statement that explains the goals of the meeting and how the agenda items will accomplish that goal. Here is an example from one of our clients:
“Thanks for joining us today. In this meeting, we will discuss next steps for implementing our marketing plan for the holidays. We’ll start by talking about big-picture goals with Mike, move on to platforms and audience targets with Sharon, then discuss roll-out tasks and responsibilities with Kate, and finish up by assigning next-steps.”
This simple summary of the meeting gives all attendees a sense of the scope of the meeting, how long it will take, and what they are supposed to accomplish by the end of the meeting.
3. Have a Way to Reign In Tangents
Even though you have prepped your team for productivity in the meeting by producing a clear agenda, tangents are inevitable. In previous meetings, they may have taken up valuable time or even derailed the meeting completely. Not anymore! Discuss with your team a method for addressing distractions when they arise. An article by the Harvard Business Review suggests this course of action, encouraging team members to hold each other accountable by asking one question:
“Is that a ‘blue sky’ discussion or are you thinking about it as part of the current plan?”
With polite and consistent reminders when they are getting off-track, individuals are generally more than willing to get back to the issue at hand. This early action by team members prevents wasting of valuable “execution time” with abstract speculation.
Keep Everyone on Track by Focusing on Tasks Instead of Big-Picture Speculation
4. Assign Follow-Up
Once you have addressed everything on your agenda and had a productive meeting, close out by assigning follow-up tasks and deliverables. This ensures that the ideas and decisions discussed in the meeting don’t fade as soon as the meeting is over. If people know what their individual tasks are and when they are due, the meeting and the project it discussed will feel like a productive success.
Using a task management and accountability platform like CommandHound to document action items from your meetings and to assign responsibilities, due dates, reminders, alerts, and escalation triggers will make sure things get done.
CommandHound has the added benefit of driving accountability as a way to drive performance by tracking action item completion at the individual team member level for later review. A platform like this will keep the productive energy flowing even after your meeting is over!
Learn more about CommandHound’s accountability software and how it can keep your team’s projects and tasks on track: