A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost – Unknown

While meetings are necessary in most workplaces, they can often feel like a waste of time. Meetings interrupt the daily routine, and can make it difficult to get things accomplished. However, according to the Harvard Business Review, there are strategies leaders can employ to make meetings more efficient and effective. Here are seven ways to improve meetings:

1. Limit the size of the meeting

Evidence shows that minimizing meetings to a small group of people is beneficial. When meetings are held with a large group, it is harder to track body language, which can reveal comprehension and reactions to information.

Another downfall to large meetings is a decrease in participation. Individuals in larger groups tend to contribute less than those in small groups. Dr. Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, says, “When many hands are available, people work less hard than they ought to.”

If a large meeting is unavoidable, make sure to be deliberate about receiving feedback, and make it a point to notice participant’s body language.

2. No devices allowed

While many of us think we are great at multitasking, this is just not the case. According to Dr. Gino, multitasking is a mythical activity. She says,

“We can do simple tasks like walking and talking at the same time, but the brain can’t handle multitasking. In fact, studies show that a person who is attempting to multitask takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task and he or she makes up to 50 percent more mistakes.”

Using devices in meetings can also be distracting, and even offensive to others. If someone is talking during a meeting and their boss is looking at their phone, he or she will probably take this as an insult. Make the best use of everyone’s time by limiting multitasking and keeping screens out of meetings.

3. Set a time limit

When there is a limit on time, people tend to stay more focused, according to HBR. Dr. Gino cited a study that found when people were on a time constraint, they communicated more quickly and used more autocratic decision making than when there was low pressure on time.
On the other hand, it is important to give each topic the time it deserves. While time constraints may improve efficiencies, rushing over topics and preventing attendees from voicing their opinions and ideas will be detrimental. Find a balance between setting a time limit and thoroughly discussing each topic, if needed, break topics into multiple categories and have two separate meetings. This will ensure everything is covered and participants will contribute their full attention.

4. Get everyone on their feet

According to HBR, stand-up meetings are more effective, and help attendees feel more energized and focused. In a 1999 study, researchers found standing meetings were 34 percent shorter than traditional sit-down meetings, and produced the same results.

5. Call on everyone to participate

Many people feel they can’t speak in a meeting unless directly addressed. Reasons for this range from culture to general disposition, but these people should not be overlooked. Asking attendees to participate in the conversation lets them know leaders value their opinions. Dr. Gino says,

“Just by asking people in the meeting for their opinion, you’re going to raise their commitment to the issues being discussed.”

6. Don’t hold meetings just to give updates

If a meeting is already being held and the schedule allows time for updates, it is acceptable to do so, but if you’re only meeting to give information, try rethinking your approach. Meeting only for updates takes up valuable time to transfer information that can often be sent in a quick email.

5. Set an agenda and clear goals prior to the meeting

This tip is critical to making meetings successful. Leaders should set the agenda and goals, then notify participants beforehand so they can prepare and meaningfully contribute. According to Dr. Gino, lacking a clear game plan can easily cause a meeting to get off-topic, and can even prevent decision-making.