Meetings are the bread and butter of decision-making for most companies. Middle managers expect to spend about a quarter of their time in meetings, while high-ups can spend well over half their time on the clock conferring in meeting rooms.

It’s hard to imagine how most companies would function without regular facetime between major decision-makers. But one recent study suggested superfluous meetings are currently a serious drain on corporate time and resources (equating to £582m a week in 2018). With that in mind, many employees across the board could do with more advice on holding professional meetings. Here’s our guide to putting the meat back in meetings.

Know Why You’re There

Preparation is the most important feature of making any meeting productive and useful. What, why, and how are the three most important questions to ask and should form the basis of structure for the meeting:

  • What is the issue that needs to be addressed?
  • Why has the issue arisen?
  • How are you going to address the issue?

Circulate Agendas

Answering the what, why, and how means you’re ready to put together an agenda of talking points. At this point, delegating responsibility for raising them is another great way of making sure the person doing the talking is the one in the know for each priority area identified. Circulate your agenda ahead of the meeting to make sure everyone’s on the same page and give the meeting a clear sense of direction.

Think About the Setting

It’s important to choose meeting room facilities that suit your needs. Differentiate between informal internal meetups and more formal external-facing presentations. Do you have any multimedia requirements such as screen sharing, slide shows, or product demonstrations? If you’re planning a video meeting or conference call, how can you position people so everyone can see and hear one another? Getting these things right can help create the right mood for the meeting.

If it’s an internal meet, choose a small, friendly, inclusive space that makes people more willing to contribute and venture their opinions. For an external meeting, you’ll want a setting that makes your professionalism clear and impresses the prospective client. Of course, the best private offices London has to offer will have a range of spaces that suit every purpose with chairs and desks provided.

Keep It Small

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos holds true to the two pizza rule: if it takes more than two pizzas to feed everyone who’s in the meeting, there’s something wrong. By holding smaller, more intimate meetings, it’s easier to cut through to the meat of the matter and work out action points with clear lines of accountability.

Keep It Punctual

Doodle’s State of Meeting report delivers a stinging critique of corporate meeting culture, showing that close to half of all employees (44%) believe poorly organised meetings eat into their productive work time. For this reason alone, it’s crucial to respect all your employees’ work time by ensuring meetings start and finish on time. If somebody’s running late (no matter who and how important they are), be prepared to start without them.

By keeping meetings punctual and running to time, you can help to cut down on lost time. If you start and finish at the intended times, you’ll also limit the likelihood of staff switching off in the short term and becoming frustrated by ineffectual meetings in the long run.

Keep It Focused

Part of keeping it short and sweet is keeping it focused on the issues at hand. Some small talk can be a great way of breaking the ice, but once you’re up-and-running, it’s important to keep the momentum going. A meeting is only as good as its chairperson. By choosing someone who’s capable of carefully charting a course and steering the meeting, you’re seriously increasing the likelihood of producing actionable outcomes within the allotted time.

Encourage Involvement and Inclusivity

None of the above means you should ever rush your meetings. It’s also important to solicit useful contributions from people with the know-how. Harvard Business Review extols the virtues of inclusive meetings in creating more engaged, financially successful and creative organisations. After all, part of the reason you call meetings in the first place is to try and brainstorm new solutions. A good rule here is to try and let everyone take their turn and try to develop a flatter hierarchy within the meeting room. Many times, the middle manager with more day-to-day contact will have better insight than the senior manager with a bird’s-eye view.

Decide on Action Points

Assigning action points is vital to ensure that what you decide in meetings is implemented on a practical level. Publicly circulating these in the wake of the meeting, along with the minutes, is how you ensure accountability and make sure they get done.

Get Feedback

Building a feedback loop into your internal meeting practice is how you make it more effective, improve team morale and cut down on wasted time. Share a simple form after meetings and make completing it obligatory (another action point for post-meeting follow-up) to find out where the common ground for improvement is.