The Top Meeting Trick That Saves Everyone Time and Money

Say farewell to wasted time in the conference room.

Originally published in Inc.

Most meetings hinge on the last five minutes. This is the time when the group comes to a consensus, approves a project, or maps the next steps. It's the moment the meeting was created for.

What if this moment was the starting point instead of the finish line?

Meetings are absolutely essential for discussing and doing work, creating and reviewing plans, and fueling collaboration and connection among team members. But without the right approach and structure, they can waste time--or even cause setbacks.

Start each meeting at the end and everyone is clear about the decisions that need to be made and who needs to be in the room to make them. Those who don't directly affect the resolution can skip the meeting and go back to work, and those who have a hand in the outcome will be focused and on task from the start.

At their best, meetings are dynamic exchanges of ideas and information, not blocks of dead time where you find yourself thinking about the work you could be accomplishing alone at your desk. But how can you get from bored in the boardroom to meetings of the minds?

Here are five more tips and tricks that have helped me improve the pace, atmosphere, and efficiency of meetings:

1. Don't be afraid to disinvite people

Don't make the mistake of erring on the side of inviting more people than needed. Ask yourself who holds the pertinent information needed to make the necessary calls and allow everyone else to carry on with their other tasks.

If you aren't sure who should be included, ask yourself two questions:

  • Does this person have information or ideas to contribute on this subject?
  • Can a decision be made without this person's insight or authority?

2. Create a culture of contributors

Once you have the right people in the room, make sure everyone is ready and able to make meaningful contributions. Establish a culture that encourages all employees to share their opinions.

Realize that if someone doesn't feel comfortable or confident enough to venture ideas in a group setting, they may feel the need to schedule additional meetings to forward their ideas later.

3. Bring on the positive energy

A 2016 study published by the American Psychological Association shows that "relational energy"--energy that you garner from interactions with others--has a positive impact on productivity, employee performance, job engagement, and achievement of workplace goals.

Setting a positive tone can be as simple as enthusiastically sharing your vision, praising others, and actively listening. It can also take the form of bringing snacks for the group, establishing milestone rewards, and ending every meeting on a high note.

4. Acknowledge and praise

An important aspect of creating positive relational energy is knowing when to praise colleagues and acknowledge accomplishments. It is a mistake to rush through a meeting, chasing maximum efficiency.

Praising a job well done, as well as encouraging workers on ongoing tasks, is vital to sustaining energy and making each team member feel his or her worth. This is especially powerful when done in front of someone peers rather than during a one-on-one check-in.

5. Take meetings outside the conference room

One radical way to save time and money on meetings is to spark situational collaboration throughout the workday, simply by switching up your company's seating arrangement.

Research conducted by Sociometric Solutions, a company that studies workplace communication patterns, has found that the people you sit next to at work are the people you interact with the most. A recent MIT study found that shuffling the desk locations of different types of scientists led to more innovation.

Grouping employees by project or client instead of department enables spontaneous mini meetings that require less time than scheduled powwows.

High-energy meetings with full participation aren't just good for company culture and morale. They also lead to concrete outcomes: extra time, saved money, and efficient decision making. And no one will lament having fewer meetings on their calendar.

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