Top 10 ways to stop bad meetings once and for all

Are meetings wasting your time and draining your will to live? Here's how to fight back...

...create charts and diagrams.

Email in meeting

Turning off digital distractions - of which there are many - can help boost productivity in meetingsPhoto: Shutterstock

7. Turn off all devices

Asking attendees to switch off their mobile devices before a meeting begins may seem old-fashioned, but research has shown that digital interruptions can reduce productivity.

If participants are receiving a steady stream of emails, social network alerts, IM and text messages, it can draw focus away from the meeting and create tension between those talking or paying attention and those who are distracted.

While some attendees may be reluctant to switch off their devices, the chair of the meeting should assure participants that they will try to make the meeting efficient and concise so attendees can get back to their emails and messages - and this is more likely to happen if no one is distracted.

8. Give everyone a role

"We've all been in meetings where we're sat down, everyone's talking and you're just thinking, 'This is just wasting my time, I should not be here'," McPheat said.

By setting out individual roles and responsibilities at the beginning of the meeting, participants will have a clearer idea of what is expected of them and be more likely to engage.

"Before the meeting takes place, the chairman basically says, 'Right, we're here today to discuss X, Y and Z. Sean, you're here from marketing and I want you to think about this. Jimmy, you're here from finance I want you to think about the financial implications of this', so everybody knows exactly what their role is within that meeting," McPheat said.

The process of identifying what each attendee is expected to bring to the meeting could also be a good exercise for the individual.

9. Get the quiet people talking

To get the more introverted attendees to participate in the meeting, LSE's Locke suggests discussions are started off on paper.

"If you are brainstorming something, instead of doing a verbal brainstorm, start with a paper brainstorm so you actually start with people writing down their ideas on paper and then discussing their ideas in pairs," she said.

"You end up using Post-its and written ideas, which allows the really quiet people to write down their thoughts, instead of having a brainstorm saying, 'OK shout out your idea' - in which case you only hear from the loud people."

10. Make a record of the meeting

Keeping a record of the meeting is important in making sure discussions are not duplicated and that each meeting achieves its purpose.

"There have to be clearly defined action points at the end of the meeting. Who is going to do what, when, and when are they going to have the answer," MTD Training's McPheat said.

Everyone should be given those action points so everyone knows what has been achieved and what is still to be done, he added.

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