Ditch the chairs – and other strategies to make meetings more bearable

Millennials don’t hate meetings. But they do hate having meetings for the sake of it.

According to Forbes, when it comes to meetings, Millennials feel that “less is more”. They believe that decisions can be made via brief email exchanges, instant messages, or quick chats in a meeting room or a common area.

Think this doesn’t affect you? Think again. By 2020, Millennials will make up 46% of the global workforce. These employees want to work more flexibly; they want the freedom to work when they’re most productive and to use digital tools to collaborate, share information, and get the job done.

The winds of change

This younger generation places a lot of value on their time. Why gather everyone in a room to discuss a project for an hour when the same discussion could have been made just as easily – if not more so – over a collaboration tool like Trello or Slack? In pulling everyone away from their desks to have a meeting, you’re using up time that could have been spent more efficiently.

Want to make the most of your meetings? Here are a few handy tips:

  • Leverage technology. There are so many digital tools out there that make it easier to coordinate tasks and projects. Using a platform like Slack, for example, you can set up channels for different projects, clients, or teams. These groups seamlessly allow employees to chat and share files in real-time.
  • Always have an agenda. A meeting without a solid agenda is destined to go off course. Send the agenda to all participants beforehand. This gives everyone time to prepare and means that meetings are shorter and more effective because it keeps everyone on track. Avoid arranging last-minute meetings, because attendees don’t have enough time to prepare.
  • Shorter is better. With an agenda, you can achieve more in less time. Communications expert Andy Bounds advises that meetings be no longer than 45 minutes. By reducing just one meeting a day by 15 minutes, you’ll buy back an entire working week per year.
  • Decline meetings that aren’t worth your while. When someone organises a meeting, they should only invite those who can actually contribute to the meeting action points. If you’ve been invited to a meeting and you doubt whether you can add any value to the conversation, chat to the organiser about why you were invited. If you don’t feel that you will contribute to the discussion, excuse yourself from the meeting.
  • Block time for internal conversations. Sometimes your team will want to pop into your office for an impromptu meeting. This can be disruptive. If you allocate specific times for these chats, they will only do so during these times and it’s less likely that they’ll drop in when you’re busy with something else.
  • Ditch the chairs. This may sound crazy, but research shows that standing meetings are 34% shorter than meetings where everyone is sitting around a boardroom table. This strategy leads to faster, higher-quality decisions because no one wants to stand around for too long.
  • Respect the timeline. Meetings must start and end on time. Starting a meeting five or 10 minutes late to accommodate late-comers should be avoided. If you’re the host, start the meeting when it is scheduled to start and avoid stopping the meeting so that those who arrive late can catch up. This may seem harsh, but if people are missing out, it’s more likely that they’ll be punctual next time.
  • Set out action plans. Andy Bounds also advises that all meetings finish up with a discussion about the next steps. Allocate time at the end of the meeting to talk about the way forward. If your meeting doesn’t end with a clear action plan, was there any point in holding a meeting at all?
  • Focus on key objectives. The most important issues should be addressed first so that you don’t get distracted by side issues. This doesn’t mean that side issues should be disregarded, but they shouldn’t become the focus of the conversation. That said, be sure to follow up on these secondary topics later.

There’s nothing wrong with meetings. Getting everyone in the same room can be hugely valuable because it boosts team morale, encourages collaboration, and provides a space for brainstorming. But having unnecessary meetings should be avoided. Focusing on the quality of meetings can have an enormous impact on productivity and employee satisfaction.