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Five Ways to Bore-Proof Your Next Meeting

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Five Ways to Bore-Proof Your Next Meeting

Most meetings are a drag. They tend to go on unnecessarily long, lack any real substance or purpose, and often feel like a waste of time. But we need meetings. They are essential to the success of a business, from management to team building, to the necessity of basic work progression. Ask yourself honestly, “Are my meetings the best they can be?” There’s always room for improvement, adjustments that when made can benefit your employees and the business overall. Let’s take a look at how you can trim the fat from and spruce up your next business gathering, and why is it essential to the productivity and longevity of your business.

Here’s the skinny: to make the most of everyone’s time and sanity, cut down on frequency and length of meetings. Indeed, less is more. According to a Harvard Business Review study that surveyed 183 senior managers across multiple industries, 71% reported that meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 62% reported that meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together. 65% reported that meetings take away from them completing their own work. The good news is that these numbers can be greatly decreased with some thoughtful planning on time spent, content covered, and engagement encouraged in meetings. The first step to constructing the perfect meeting is to identify what motivates employees and why. 

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Do you know what motivates your employees? If not, you won’t know how to foster their loyalty, commitment, creativity, and productivity. There are two types of motivation–extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation develops outside of an individual. It is behavior that is driven by the prospect of gaining external rewards, like praise, money, or fame. Being paid to do a job is an example of extrinsic motivation, and it accompanies the threat of being short-lived. What happens when employees lose interest in performing, for example, just for the motivation to be paid? 

Intrinsic motivation, then, is behavior driven by internal rewards. Instead of achieving an objective, the motivation is driven by what the individual naturally finds satisfying. Intrinsic motivational factors can take the form of job security, achievement, responsibility, and the work itself. For example, an employee staying longer at work because they believe in their work holds more longevity than them committing more hours because of an external factor. 

Showing appreciation for other’s time and hard work is an excellent intrinsic motivator. During your next meeting, try using the gathering as an opportunity to sincerely thank and praise employees for the work they have done and are doing. Who doesn’t appreciate an extra dose of TLC? And it’s proven profitable. According to a study by Glassdoor, over 80% of employee respondents are motivated by appreciation, compared to less than 40% who reported being motivated to work harder by fear of job loss or pressure from a demanding boss. 

You can also make fostering gratefulness a team-building exercise. In a large group, this could look like asking each team member to share something they appreciate about the person sitting next to them. Or perhaps asking team leaders to speak to a positive achievement or effort from their team as a whole. However gratitude is shared, it can undoubtedly boost morale and contribute to overall productivity.  

5 Ways to Improve Meetings

  1. Have a purpose for every meeting.

    Don’t hold pointless, unnecessary meetings that waste precious time that could be better spent being productive. This sets a negative tone and employees can begin to dread every meeting–even the important ones. This may lead to them automatically checking-out before the meeting even begins, which is a losing situation for everyone. 

  2. Set clear goals for the meeting.

    This lets employees know what they can expect and can help keep them focused throughout. That may look like providing an outline for all employees to see so that they can follow along and feel connected to the meeting’s projection and flow. 

  3. Allow collaboration and open discussion.

    The team is gathered–let them converse and connect! Maybe you ask coworkers to share what they’ve been working on or an upcoming project they’re looking forward to. This also opens space for people to contribute their ideas and support one another. It may even turn into a productive think tank or spark a winning idea. Allowing team members the opportunity to be seen, heard, and involved, rather than just being talked at, creates an inclusive and energetic dynamic where everyone can play a part. 

  4. Ask employees what they want the meeting to look like.

    The best way to know how to reach people is to ask them how they are best reached. Maybe employees prefer a certain structure, they enjoy Q&As, or they favor interactive presentations versus PowerPoints. Gather information and whatever your findings, cater to your crew. Try using SurveyMonkey or another survey tool to ask employees what they’d like to see. Their answers will remain anonymous and you can piece together everyone’s preferences to create the most ideal atmosphere for everyone. Knowing they have a voice can also contribute to employees’ sense of belonging and value. 

  5. Make it fun.

    Yes, meetings can be fun! And if you have the option to make them so, why not? Incorporate some gamification–using elements of games to keep the “players” engaged. According to an article by Forbes, “Adapting some of the same principles found in gaming for entertainment to gaming for education– ‘gamification’–offers tremendous potential to impact teaching and learning.” You can gamify almost any aspect of a meeting. Talk about business strategy like a board game and ask employees for their strategy input. Put on a constructed playlist during workshop sessions to build the right mood and create a productive vibe. Split employees up into teams and hold a brainstorm session for ideas. The team with the most ideas or the winning idea is awarded a free dinner, gift certificate, or a “go home early on Friday” card, for example. Get creative and enjoy the process!

Meetings can and should be engaging, interactive, and fun. When they are, employees are more satisfied and productive, and the business profits as a result. Win, win. Apply any or all of the five suggested ways to improve your meetings and experience a more enjoyable and constructive dynamic with your team. 

 

Douglas is an entrepreneur and human-centered technologist with over 20 years of experience. He is president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based workshop agency that specializes in Design Sprints and innovation workshops. Prior to Voltage Control, Douglas held CTO positions at numerous Austin startups where he led product and engineering teams using agile, lean, and human-centered design principles. While CTO at Twyla, Douglas worked directly with Google Ventures running Design Sprints and now brings this experience and process to companies everywhere. Douglas recently published his first book Beyond the Prototype, which offers expert advice for people shifting from discovery projects to realization and launch. Douglas is active in the Austin startup community where he serves on the board of several non-profits, mentors startups, and advises early-stage ventures. Douglas spends his free time patching up modular synthesizers, playing guitar, and taking photographs. He graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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