Internal meetings are a necessary yet often dreaded part of the business day. As Stephanie Vozza notes in an article on Fastcompany.com, the National Statistics Council estimates that 37% of employee time is spent in meetings, and 47% of employees believe meetings waste more time than social media or email. Vozza interviewed various companies that have come up with creative ways to make their internal meetings more productive. Based on her research, here are 10 tips you can use to improve the effectiveness of your internal meetings.
Use tech to keep them short. At one firm, an app dims conference room lights and signals meeting goers when it’s time to draw to a close. Employing a more low-tech approach, another firm sets a stopwatch at the start of each meeting. If the meeting runs over the allotted time, the individual who called it must contribute $5 to the team’s beer jar.
Punishment for lengthy meetings. To avoid meetings that ramble on forever, one firm requires them to have a defined purpose, agenda and time limit—usually a half hour. If it runs over, the founder removes the chairs from the room and requires participants to stand until the agenda is met. The tactic usually keeps everyone on point. Another company discourages lengthy meetings by requiring the last person talking over the time limit to do 50 push-ups.
Speaking of time, set the start for an odd time. One firm found that when it called a meeting for 9 a.m., employees habitually wandered in late. Their solution was to schedule meetings at 8:48 a.m. Everyone noticed the unusual start time and showed up on time.
Lessons for latecomers. To prevent employees from arriving late and disrupting a meeting in progress, one company requires latecomers to sing a song. The embarrassment of having to belt out a rendition of The National Anthem, Happy Birthday or a nursery rhyme in front of co-workers motivates everyone to arrive on time.
Halt phone interruptions. Personal cell phones that ring or buzz during a meeting can be annoying and disruptive. One firm addresses this problem by requiring anyone whose cell phone rings at an inappropriate time to make a donation to the company’s nonprofit charitable foundation.
Emphasize sharing. Since meetings bring staff together, one company uses that as an opportunity to encourage interpersonal connections. At the start of the meeting, the leader poses a question that is work-related, but specifically designed to get participants out of their comfort zones. An example might be: “What are your doubts about something you’re working on?”
Color my world. Sharing takes on a new dimension at a baby food manufacturer, where employees meet weekly to interact, brainstorm and… color. According to the company’s innovation director, coloring is not only a relaxing pursuit, but it promotes active listening and has helped stimulate new product development.
Encourage Q&A by instituting stare offs. In a stare off, two people gaze at each other until one ultimately laughts or looks away. A CEO uses the childhood game to encourage questions during the final 10 minutes of a meeting. If no one has a question following a presentation, he will awkwardly stare at employees until someone breaks and poses a question.
Forge new ground. To avoid rehashing topics that were previously addressed, one firm has issued a “No Rehash” ping pong paddle to each employee. When during a meeting a topic arises that had already been discussed ad nauseam, employees are encouraged to raise their paddles as a visual signal to move on. The practice empowers everyone in the company to call out the counterproductive habit.
Take the meeting outside. Make meetings fun by staging them in different places. A mobile game publisher gets employees into the game by holding meetings on a basketball court. They chat while shooting hoops. They believe the exercise gets their blood, and creative juices, flowing.