Ways of working

Ultimate hosting: five top tips for leading more productive meetings

Meetings get a lot of bad press, with productivity ‘gurus’ in particular frequently claiming that companies waste too much time in them. However, rather than quitting meetings altogether, we can rethink how to use that time more effectively. Here we take a look at five ways you can make your meetings more productive.

Plan (and share) an agenda. 

A US study by Attentiv suggests that 63% of meetings happen without a pre-planned agenda. To avoid this, specify your goals – what you want out of the meeting – and the discussion points that will get you there. Add them to the calendar event so that everyone can take responsibility for keeping on track.

For meetings with particularly limited time, note how long you expect each discussion point to take and have a clear idea of who will address it and how. Keep a clock visible so that you can push proceedings forward if needs be.

Consider your approach. 

The approach to chairing a meeting should reflect the attendees as well as your goals. For example, Apple and Google make sure that everyone has a clear responsibility at each meeting so that accountability is shared.

As the host, you can put a few ground rules in place. Language plays a key role in setting the tone for meetings – use positive, open phrasing and avoid ‘no’ to make sure everyone feels their contributions are valued. Limit the use of jargon or colloquial terms to make sure everyone’s on the same page, especially if your team is international.

Embrace remote attendance. 

Our research found that 54% of people work remotely for two and a half days or more each week. If your meeting doesn’t allow for remote attendance, you’re limiting who can attend. Fortunately, including remote workers has never been easier, thanks to the increasing usage of online comms.

Skype is now used by 60% of workers, but you’ll need to account for regional variations. 98% of Chinese workers we surveyed, for example, had used WeChat in the preceding month, while 70% of Japanese users opted for LINE.

Cater for physical attendees. 

For those who arrive in-person, planning for a comfortable meeting is vital. Not only will you make a good impression, but providing the right food and drink can improve attendees’ focus as well as their performance.

Whole grain snacks like popcorn are a great way to boost energy in the room, plenty of water will keep people hydrated and focused, while tea and coffee give that caffeine boost. Blueberries, green tea and dark chocolate all help with alertness too.

Harness the cloud. 

At Regus, we specialise in creating physical and virtual spaces for the meeting itself, but the preparation and follow-up are just as important. Share the presentation and documents from each meeting in advance so that attendees can add their notes and have immediate access to what they need.

The best tool to use? Our January 2016 survey showed that 50% of workers used Google Drive and 63% used Dropbox. And – as a finishing touch – make sure to specify a deadline and an owner for each action from the meeting.