If you’ve worked in business for any length of time, you’ve attended two very different types of meetings. First, there are effective business meetings, where employees share necessary information, collaborate efficiently, and develop next steps to solve their shared problems.

And then there are the meetings where to put it simply, nothing gets done. You sit in a room with your colleagues and collectively spin your wheels for an hour, and by the time you leave you’re in the same place you were before you started the meeting— except now you’re frustrated about the time you just wasted.

In isolation, an unproductive meeting isn’t the worst problem in the world. But the statistics surrounding this subject are quite troubling— as they suggest that meetings might be hurting your company more than they’re helping (source):

  • 37% of the average employee’s time is spent in meetings.
  • Executives consider more than 67% of meetings a failure.
  • An estimated 25-50% of time spent in meetings is wasted.

With so many responsibilities on their plates, B2B marketers and sales professionals can’t afford to waste such valuable time in inefficient meetings. That’s why today, we’re offering some of our most useful tips to run consistently efficient, worthwhile business meetings. Let’s get started!

1. Create and distribute an agenda.

Believe it or not, most meeting organizers fail to set an agenda prior to a meeting. In fact, only 37% of meetings have clear agendas (source).

Agendas serve several key purposes. They help attendees understand why they’ve been assembled, what the purpose of the meeting is, and what goal they’re trying to accomplish. Agendas also help to ground the meeting so it can get back on track if the conversation veers off course. Last but not least, agendas can drastically reduce the length of a meeting; studies show sticking to a detailed agenda can decrease the amount of meeting time by up to 80% (source).

To get the most out of your business meetings, agendas should cover the following items:

  • Pre-meeting preparation: What should participants bring to the meeting? What resources or reports should each attendee review prior to the meeting?
  • Meeting overview: What is the purpose of the meeting? What topics will be discussed, who will be leading the conversation, and what role should each participant play in the discussion?
  • Post-meeting plan: What tasks or objectives are you trying to accomplish following the meeting? How will this meeting help you complete those objectives?

Of course, it’s not feasible to create an agenda for every business meeting. Last-minute meetings and brief standups might not require a detailed overview and plan, nor may you have the time to create one. But if you’re running an important meeting that will have ramifications on future decisions, be sure to create and distribute a clear agenda ahead of time.

2. Limit the number of attendees you invite.

Have you ever sat through an hour-long meeting and thought, Why am I here? If so, you’re not alone. It’s not always your fault you can’t contribute anything valuable to a meeting; it’s the meeting organizer’s fault for not being selective when creating the attendee list. When you’re running a meeting, don’t make this same mistake.

Limit your meeting attendee list to the employees who need to be there. For one, you’ll prevent individual employees from wasting their time. And, you’ll facilitate a more focused and productive conversation, as each attendant is invested in the objectives of the meeting.

If you’re worried about being too exclusive, there’s an easy solution. First, determine the “required” employees whose participation is essential to the meeting. Then, send an “optional” invite to team members who could gain valuable insights by attending the meeting, but don’t necessarily need to be there.

3. Keep the meeting engaging.

91% of people admit to daydreaming during meetings while 73% of people admit to working on other tasks (source). Let’s face it, we’ve all attended meetings where we’ve done both. If a meeting fails to win the attention of its participants, they have every reason to mentally check out and direct their thoughts elsewhere.

As the meeting facilitator, it’s your job to keep attendees focused and engaged. Ask questions and open the floor for ideas as frequently as possible. During a particularly information-dense meeting, reset and check in on your attendees every 10 minutes.

Remember, the employees attending your meeting are participants, not audience members at a lecture. Don’t take their attention for granted and enable each of them to have a voice and unique role during the meeting.  

4. Consider your meeting environment.

Finding a place to meet can be an afterthought or a major headache, depending on your company’s workspace. And unfortunately, it’s often the latter. In fact, 40% of employees waste up to 30 minutes a day searching for a meeting space (source).

The scarcity of available meeting spaces facilitates a separate problem— people often gather in environments that enable unproductive, unengaging meetings.

Earlier we discussed limiting the required number of meeting attendees. Many companies already endorse this idea, as 73% of meetings involve only 2-4 people. The problem is, 53% of conference rooms are designed to accommodate seven or more people (source).

Believe it or not, too much space can cripple the effectiveness of a business meeting. A room that sits thirty is not an ideal atmosphere for a meeting between five people. The unnecessary space makes it easy to become distracted and disconnected from what should be a highly-focused conversation.

Avoid this problem by planning ahead and booking your ideal room days in advance of the meeting. If finding more intimate spaces is still an issue, consider options outside of your designated meeting rooms. Find a comfortable makeshift space, or even hold your meeting over coffee or lunch at a quiet restaurant. The change of scenery can actually make your meeting more engaging.

5. Establish a clear time limit.

We all know how often “Can we meet for a few minutes?” turns into an interminable, rambling conversation. Not only are these meetings inefficient, but they’re also disrespectful to your colleagues and employees who didn’t agree to spend three hours in a “quick meeting”.

Set strict start and end times for each meeting, and stick to them. If you’ve done your preparation and followed your agenda, there’s no reason you can’t convey all the necessary information in the amount of time you’ve allotted.

6. Test your technology before the meeting.

The slideshow presentation won’t load. The video you prepared for an important meeting lags and buffers every five seconds. Virtual attendees have an awful connection. These technology woes are so common that we’re almost surprised when a meeting wraps up without something going wrong. Consider these statistics (source):

  • 67% of employees are regularly irritated by technology issues during meetings.
  • 41% feel their engagement is affected by a failure in technology.
  • 72% are more engaged when multimedia is used in a meeting and the technology works correctly.

Technology is a valuable asset to liven up your presentation and keep attendees engaged. But, it becomes a detriment the moment a technical difficulty halts a meeting. If you run a meeting that requires any form of technology, it’s your responsibility to test it beforehand and fix any problems that could kill the momentum of your meeting.

7. End meetings with a thorough action plan.

A productive meeting can fall apart at the finish line if you fail to establish next steps. Every attendee should leave the meeting and know exactly what they’ll do next, both as a group and as an individual.

Close your meeting by reviewing your action plan, and distribute a written recap to all attendees following the meeting. In general, an action plan should cover the following details:

Objectives: Define the specific steps each person will take to accomplish your objective.

Example: A digital marketing team gathers to plan the promotion of a new product. By the end of the meeting, you have determined that you’ll need to produce a blog post, a short video, several social media posts, and an email campaign in order to increase traffic and conversions on the product landing page. You assign each of those sub-projects to the appropriate team member.

Metrics: Specify what business metrics you will track in order to monitor and improve your efforts.

Example: Using the same example as above, your marketing team selects a number of metrics related to traffic, engagement, click-through rate and conversions to assess how each individual channel performs.

Timeline: Determine how much time you’ll need to complete the objective and set clear deadlines.

Example: All of the aforementioned content for the product launch must be completed and ready to distribute three weeks from the day of the meeting.

It goes without saying, not every meeting involves planning an elaborate campaign or making a major strategic decision. But, even less significant meetings should end with some sort of action plan. If the next step isn’t clear, your meeting likely served little purpose and the conversations that took place as part of the meeting will be forgotten as more important action items come up.

Key Takeaways on Efficient Business Meetings

Many of us have come to accept meetings as a necessary evil. Sometimes they’re effective, sometimes they’re a colossal waste of time, but it’s all part of the experience of working for a growing business. But, we hope today’s blog post helped you approach business meetings with a fresh set of eyes.

Inefficient meetings are not unavoidable. By simply following the tips we offered above, you’ll have an immediate impact on the effectiveness of your meetings and the productivity of the people around you.
For more information about improving the efficiency of your business, contact ZoomInfo today. We are the leading contact database solution and we’ll provide you with the tools you need to grow your business faster!

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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