Experts love to say that meetings kill productivity.
If you are like most people, the thought of spending a day in back-to-back meetings can be a dreadful feeling.
Although meetings can, at times, be cumbersome and disruptive, they are a vital part of getting work done, managing teams, and networking.
Here are 6 tips for better scheduling - be it preparing telephone appointments, video conferences, or face-to-face meetings - that’s more conducive to overall productivity and respectful of everyone’s time.
1. Make sure that you really need a meeting
"Too many meetings!"
When a company struggles with low employee morale, you will most often find this complaint near the top of the list.
This may look like a complaint, but really, this is a statement about feeling disrespected.
Employee engagement surveys reveal that unproductive meetings push employees away.
So here’s what you do.
The first of all the tips for scheduling is to make sure that a meeting is really that necessary.
We often think a formal meeting is the only best way to share information or have a discussion.
But if your news can be delivered via email or conference call, then it's probably a good idea to skip the formal meeting altogether.
Truth be told, plenty of appointments are set for simple things like handing over a document for approval.
Before actually planning meetings, think about whether the matter could be handled in a faster, more efficient way.
Also, meet remotely when appropriate.
Although physical presence and contacts are invaluable in building rapport, if appropriate, a remote meeting can be a huge time-saver.
Remote meetings are often easier to schedule, as it eliminates travel time and other related expenses.
Also, preparing online meetings can now be automated through the use of advanced technological tools. Plus, these meetings tend to run shorter because there’s less chance for small talk.
Task switching is the time it takes to diverge your attention from one task to another and get re-focused. The task-switching time can drain anywhere from an extra 10 to 50 minutes from the day.
Not only does it reduce task-switching costs, but effective scheduling also improves focus during meetings and increases productive focus time for other work.
Think about those periods in your day that you normally take a break.
Do you usually get a coffee when you feel groggy in the afternoon?
Why not schedule this coffee time with someone?
For better scheduling, think about times in your daily routine when you could invite people to join you.
Having said that, schedule meetings to be first thing in the morning, right before a midday break, or at the end of the day.
These are the times when work is already naturally disrupted. Hence, you create just one, rather than two, task-switching interruptions for each meeting.
Whenever possible, avoid 30 minutes to a 1-hour gap between meetings.
When there’s a gap between meetings, it becomes hard to do anything productive in the anticipation of the next meeting.
Scheduling them succeedingly saves a lot of wasted time.
Do you need to review the reports first? Prepare a presentation?
Or you might need extra time to iron your shirt?
Effective meetings have specific objectives.
What should be discussed? What are you seeking to accomplish?
Plan ahead the meeting agenda and distribute it to the attendees.
It’s helpful to indicate the allocated time for each topic to be addressed.
Remember, this is important not just for those attending but also for you.
There’s less chance of straying off-topic if the agenda is well-planned and organized.
4. Use Technology
There is nothing more efficient when it comes to scheduling meetings than using the right tools.
There are numerous easy-to-employ tools that help in booking your appointments for meetings or sessions.
Bitrix24 CRM lets you automatically send an appointment to your prospects or team. They will generate a unique link for the timings you have identified.
Your participants can just click the link and see the time options. They can then book themselves in for a suitable time.
On top of that, your participants will receive reminders and notifications before the meeting. It makes sure they are ready beforehand.
It’s an absolute must-try if you still haven’t yet.
Moreover, technology helps keep attendees engaged during meetings.
People are wired to understand better when they see graphics or videos to support the words they hear.
Utilize that mindset and incorporate audiovisuals when planning your meeting.
But be sure to test it out first.
You wouldn’t want to get flustered because your laptop isn't working or your visual aids won’t work when you run them during the meeting.
If technology isn't your forte, ask assistance from someone else to check everything before the meeting.
Better scheduling also means deciding beforehand what tools to use during the actual meeting.
Planning video conferences can be a bit hard for the uninitiated, but here’s a tip: In deciding what best video conferencing services fit your meetings, consider reliability, meaning your calls remain intact even if someone's connection is buggy.
Having ample tools for collaborating while you meet is also a big plus.
These tools include screen sharing and whiteboards, chat boxes, as well as options for moderators to be able to pass control to another person or mute attendees while one person speaks.
On days with successive meetings, the better scheduling guide is to end a meeting at least 10 minutes before the start of the next one ensures people have time to gracefully transition.
This should be enough time to make a quick trip to the restroom or reply to a few urgent messages, which in turn, can have a huge difference in everyone's ability to focus during the meeting.
Better scheduling is all about keeping everything smooth before the conference.
Confirm when and where the meeting is, what the agenda covers, and even how to get there.
All it takes is a brief email a day or two before the appointment that outlines the appointment and asks for a simple yes in response if everything is correct.
Also, respect their judgment about how to best use that time.
If your team feels there are just too many meetings, let them know they can opt-out of any meeting they find unnecessary to their work.
And here’s another bonus tip when meeting a prospect:
During the meeting, open your call by confirming that the prospect is available by asking if you have caught the prospect in the middle of anything.
This can show the prospect that you respect them and their time, and it can even buy you 2 to 5 minutes to work with when the prospect says they are available.