Most of the time, business meetings are seen as a necessary evil. When they’re not planned and conducted in the best possible way, meetings can take up a lot of time and cost the company money. These are two resources that startups have limited amounts of and should be putting to the best use.
Strategic meetings and creative gatherings can be really beneficial for new businesses if they’re carried out in a personalized, optimal way.
Productive business meetings are all about having a plan and staying on top of the interaction. Here are a few hacks that will help startup owners turn business meetings into a valuable resource rather than a tiresome bore (that also happens to be costly!).
Meetings for the Sake of Meetings Are a Big No-No!
Ask yourself one simple thing before mailing the team about an upcoming meeting: do you really need to come together for the specific purpose?
Many meetings can be replaced by alternative forms of communication. You can easily send an update via email and the result will be as good as delivering the news personally.
People like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk avoid meetings and deem those productivity killers. In fact, Musk urged Tesla employees in an email to forego excessive meetings. He went even further to call meetings “the blight on large companies.”
Research shows that most meetings are meaningless at best and a large productivity killer at worst. Thus, you need to be really selective when bringing people together. If you’re having a meeting, it should come with a well-defined purpose and a specific outcome you have in mind as a result of the interaction.
Short & Segmented
Some research suggests the optimal meeting length is 15 minutes.
This amount of time is perfect for explaining the purpose of the meeting, assigning tasks and answering some questions.
Startup employees are typically pretty busy, which is why you don’t need to have everyone participating in meetings. Rather, break things down to involve solely the individuals affected by the conversation or the ones who could contribute with ideas to it.
Having everyone gathered and present is a really old-school approach. Moreover, what can such an approach accomplish? Most will be falling asleep while one or two people are actively engaged in the discussion.
People should feel comfortable speaking up, challenging ideas and presenting their own arguments during business meetings. This is what you need to accomplish if you want to steer your young business in the right direction.
A quick Q&A session in the beginning or the end of a meeting could be a good way to break the ice and hear more from the people shaping up the future of your startup right now.
Process improvement facilitation can also be beneficial since a professional can guide the team into making the most of the available time, increasing the efficiency of meetings and finding a way to interact openly while getting everyone involved.
Online Can Be as Good as Offline
Remote teams and telecommuting professionals play an important role in the startup culture.
Unfortunately, many of these professionals find it difficult to be on the same page as the other members of the team.
Scheduling meetings when half of the team is remote can be an incredibly challenging task.
You can use technology to your advantage. Live video conferences create the sense of engagement and belonging that people experience during an actual physical meeting with other team members. In addition, people can participate from their workplace, which doesn’t make them spend a ton of time commuting to and from an office.
While technology does simplify things, it’s important to hold face-to-face meetings once in a while. These should be perceived as more of an opportunity for people to get to know each other and have a bit of fun together.
Moderate the Discussion
A good business meeting should never be a monologue.
Those who encourage participation, however, offer run into a specific problem. People can easily get distracted and side tracked into irrelevant topics that don’t serve the purpose of the meeting.
This is why having a business meeting moderator is of paramount importance.
As the person holding the meeting, you should be in charge. Collaborative conversations are important. Irrelevant chit-chat isn’t.
It’s up to you to gently but decisively keep the conversation on the topics outlined within the meeting agenda. If someone needs to discuss an alternative issue, you can either have a quick private conversation about it in the end or you could schedule a separate meeting for the purpose.
Always Set a Finish Time for the Meeting
Setting a finish time for the meeting and letting everyone know about it is a really clever hack to accelerate the conversation.
When people know that an activity has to end by a certain time, they will be more motivated to stick to the agenda, communicate efficiently and get the job done. Setting a finish time will enable you to quite often conclude the meeting earlier.
Finally, don’t be afraid of exploring communication dynamics within your startup. The meeting productivity hacks that work for one team aren’t necessarily going to yield an optimal outcome for another professional group. Trust your instinct and ask team members for input. Getting them involved in the process will ensure everyone’s on the same page and content with the current startup meeting policies.