At Work

What's the Best Way to Structure a Work Meeting?

Meetings serve an important purpose in the workplace: Getting everyone on the same page in terms of goals and action items. But it’s entirely possible for meetings to turn into “too much of a good thing.” Too many meetings are counterproductive in that they end up wasting employees’ time and increasing their frustration levels—both negative outcomes that can fuel expensive loss of productivity and high turnover rates.
As it stands, 59 percent of employees feel less engaged due to the number of meetings they must attend on a regular basis. This points to a larger problem, which is that many organizations are currently holding meetings in an inefficient manner. When meetings occur too frequently, it’s generally an indication that organizations need to optimize the nature of their meetings, so they can accomplish more with less.
Better meetings mean less time wasted and better business outcomes. Start by asking yourself and your management team: What’s the best way to structure a work meeting?
Help Attendees Get Focused and Comfortable
People come into meetings with different expectations. Many attendees are undoubtedly still thinking about the last thing they were working on before they stepped away from their desks. It’s important to create a meeting structure that helps everyone focus and feel comfortable from the start.
Kicking off your meeting with these creative ice breaker questions from Poll Everywhere is a savvy way to get attendees’ mental gears turning while bolstering the spirit of collaboration. Here are a few types of questions that work well as meeting openers:

  • Multiple-choice poll: “Given X scenario, what would you do?”
  • Word cloud: “What’s your favorite X?”
  • Word cluster: “If you were to describe yourself as X, what word or emoji would you choose?”
  • Freeform Q&A: “How do you feel about X?”

Taking a few moments to break the ice doesn’t waste precious time; on the contrary, it primes meeting attendees to think and participate.
Build an Agenda, Then Tackle Each Item
Moving through an agenda is the best way to stay on track. But overly rigid agendas created ahead of time can actually tarnish efficiency. You may end up discussing items that are old news or spending too much time on one item and running out of steam before you reach the end of the list.
One way to make sure your agenda is highly relevant is to build it in real time, soliciting suggestions from attendees in the form of lightning-round input. This ensures everyone gets to add their most pressing, topical topics to the agenda. People are also more invested in an agenda they help create rather than one that’s assigned to them ahead of time.
Discuss Solutions; Not Data
Presenting brand-new information in a meeting tacks on a significant chunk of time to the running total. A good rule of thumb is to use meetings to discuss solutions—not raw data. The benefit of having many people in the same room is the chance to collaborate and reach mutually agreed-upon decisions. So, distribute relevant data beforehand. This way, attendees can walk in with an idea of the underlying information and use the meeting to discuss implications and concrete solutions.
Let Length Determine Structure
It’s a mistake to approach all meetings with the same mindset. The function of the meeting determines the length. The length determines the best structure. Think about the different types of meetings your company holds, then design a custom structure for each variation. As Harvard Business Review points out, strategic meetings require longer, while regular operational meetings can afford to be briefer.
The best way to structure a work meeting is whatever helps it achieve peak efficiency and effectiveness for everyone involved.

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