Tips for improving staff meetings

Meetings at work can often be something that everyone dreads, whether it's a weekly staff meeting or a meeting required for a particular project or task. Often it feels like you walk out of a meeting and nothing is achieved, other than wasting time, which nobody can afford to do.

The good news is that if you change how you approach a meeting you can make them more productive, and more motivating and interesting for your staff. Here are some tips to help you improve your staff meetings so they leave employees feeling positive and like you all accomplished something, because you did!

Don’t have a meeting at all

Before you go ahead and book that meeting, take a few minutes to consider if you actually need one at all. Could you reach your objectives with a quick 5-minute chat on the phone or a group email with a few questions? Often you feel like you are being more productive if you're in a meeting surrounded by your staff or team members, but occasionally it just isn't necessary.

Begin with the end in mind

Think about what you are having a meeting to achieve. Is it to discuss a new project or an on-going issue? Is it to allocate new duties to employees? Is it to organise the staff Christmas party? At the beginning of the meeting introduce to all what the exact outcome will be so everyone is clear on what they are working towards and you can avoid deviation from the end goal.

Think about the length of the meeting

Before you book in an hour-long meeting, do think if you really need this long. Perhaps you could have a short 15 minute meeting or get everything done in 45 minutes? Short and sweet meetings are often more productive in keeping people energised to do the work you've just discussed rather than wasting their new interest in a project or task by talking about it at great length.

Keep to the start and finish time

It sounds simple and obvious but keeping to the meeting's designated start and finish time can do a lot to keep people’s focus. If people arrive late, others may be less focused or happy to be in a meeting with them. Additionally, as soon as that clock has ticked over the meeting’s end time minds start to wander. Your staff will not appreciate you wasting their time, just as much as you don't want them to waste yours.

Prepare beforehand

A sure way to have an unsuccessful meeting is to turn up unprepared. Planning the meeting in terms of what you want to discuss and what you want to achieve will save a lot of time and you don't risk overlooking your key points. Make sure you set a clear agenda, read any related documents and have your questions and points ready to share.

Keep everyone else focused

It's not unusual for people to talk over each other or get distracted with an unrelated issue in staff meetings, but this can cause the conversation to go "off piste" or run over the allotted time. If you've called the meeting, it's your job to keep everyone as focused as possible. Do this by limiting people's chance to talk to five or so minutes - and making this a common meeting policy so everyone knows this is the way it is. Finally, tell everyone when you are halfway through the meeting to remind them that they have a limited amount of time left.

About the author

Jen Lowthrop is Findmyshift's own all-star writer and a blogger. With more than a decade of experience in volunteer management and marketing, Jen also ran her own local deli/cafe. When not writing for Findmyshift, Jen blogs about her travels at She Gets Around and can be found talking about travel, branding and business on Facebook and Twitter.