How many hours have you spent in unproductive meetings this week? 
 
A YouGov poll in 2015 suggested that 49% of UK employees waste time in meetings every week, with distracted employees, waffling, lack of agenda and failing to reach decisions being particular bugbears. Here are a few of our top tips for more effective meetings. 
 
1) Invite the right people 
Respect other people’s time by only inviting those who really need to be there, and consider whether some people could just attend a part of the meeting relevant to them. Attendees need to have the authority to make decisions and agree next steps; otherwise, the meeting simply becomes a debate with no actions. If substitutes attend it must be on the understanding that they can make decisions at the meeting, and that their decisions will be binding. 
 
2) Use technology to be more productive 
Do people really need to travel for an hour or more to attend your meeting? Could they dial in or use video-conferencing rather than spending time travelling? And did you know that a third of people admit to using social media or sending personal e-mails and texts during meetings? Do you insist that phones are switched off? 
 
3) Always start and end on time. 
43% of employees said meetings regularly start late or overrun. 6 people in a meeting waiting 10 minutes for the last person to arrive have already wasted an hour before the meeting begins. Always start meetings on time and don’t recap or revisit decisions when latecomers arrive. If you’re feeling really tough, allocate actions to those who haven’t arrived when the agenda item is discussed. People will quickly learn to be on time! 
 
4) Circulate an agenda before the meeting 
An agenda lets people decide whether they need to be at the meeting or could send a substitute. It also helps those who need time to reflect and research before they can actively participate in a discussion. 
 
5) Have a note-taker 
Give one of the attendees responsibility for noting all the actions and decisions agreed during the meeting, and circulating these to all attendees within 24 hours of the meeting. 
 
6) Make a decision at the end of each agenda item 
The aim should be to agree at least one “next step” for every item on the agenda, and to assign that action to someone at the meeting, with an agreed timescale. Then close all discussion on the subject and move onto the next topic. 
 
7) Review action points at every meeting 
Hold people to account for the actions they should have taken by allocating time in every meeting to review progress on the action points from the previous meeting. 
 
8) Stick to the agenda 
Once all the published agenda items have been covered, either finish the meeting early, or use any time left to allow attendees to raise any other business. But only once the meeting has achieved its original objectives, and always finish the meeting on time. 
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