Short ’n’ Sweet: 4 Tips for Running Efficient Meetings to Increase Productivity

by Anne Bouleanu
- Jul 3 2014 - 3 min read

Meetings are a necessary part of managing a small business, but as many small-business owners will say, that doesn’t make them fun. Whether a meeting is focused on client relationship management, annual budget planning, or developing a new marketing strategy, sometimes meetings feel like they can drag on forever.

And indeed, they often do run on for hours, which is hardly a productive way to spend company time and resources. Here are a few tips on how to run efficient meetings so you can tackle this small-business challenge and get back to running your business outside of a conference room and increase productivity.

1. Really Plan the Meeting. Maybe you’re the kind to head into a meeting with a vague idea of what to tackle during the allotted time, confident you’ll be able to wing it. Regardless of how good you may be at giving presentations on the fly, remember that meetings carve into staff members’ days and should be as productive as possible. One of the best ways to ensure efficiency and productivity is to map out the meeting ahead of time. This is a practice many people already employ, but Forbes recommends spending twice as much time on the meeting agenda as you normally do.

This will help meeting organizers make sure they know exactly what they want to happen during a meeting. If you arrive at a meeting without knowing precisely what needs to be accomplished, efficiency may spiral downward. Instead, plan out a meeting with clear objectives, and if you feel it will help staff make progress in productivity and efficiency, feel free to share the agenda with team members before going into the meeting. This time-management technique will prime employees for what is ahead so they can come to the meeting fully prepared and ready to share their thoughts.

increase productivity

2. Start on Time. As people filter in through the door, chatting and catching up, taking their time before sitting down and taking out a notepad, precious minutes may slip by. This is especially a problem if a company culture has been established that allows for latecomers to wander in the door 5 or 10 minutes late. Small-business owners can change this fairly easily. Start by sending out a company-wide email announcing that staff needs to arrive on time to meetings. Then, if employees are late to the next meeting, simply start without them.

After finding a meeting has started without them, employees should get the hint right away that lateness is going to be a thing of the past. Efficient meetings proceed one minute at a time, and beginning right at the scheduled start time is the first step toward improving productivity.

3. Have Equipment Ready to Go. Have a stellar PowerPoint presentation to show staff? Great! What’s not great is making employees wait while searching through files to find the slideshow, fumbling with cords, and trying to remember how to project the presentation just the way you need.

Do yourself and everyone around you a favor and be ready to go with all equipment set up the moment the meeting is set to begin. Rather than trying to figure out equipment in the minutes leading up to the meeting, head into the conference room or office and prepare all materials well in advance. This also includes things like bottles of water, packets, and lunch or snacks if the meeting is planned to run during the middle of the day. Taking 5 minutes to prep the presentation far outweighs 10 minutes of lost productivity scrambling to get it right.

Being ready to go right away will drastically cut down on wasted time, improving efficiency and productivity. A prepared leader also sets the tone for how the meeting will go, prompting staff members to act the same way.

increase productivity

4. Hold Standing Meetings. Although they may be untraditional, research shows that standing meetings may be more efficient. These types of meetings, often held in common areas such as hallways or even break rooms, may make it easier for attendees to pay attention and can greatly reduce actual time spent on meetings, a Stanford Business School study showed.

The study, which compared decision-making between 56 groups that held stand-up meetings versus 55 groups that held traditional sit-down meetings, found some surprising results, Business Management Daily reported. Both types of meetings were scheduled to be roughly 10 to 20 minutes long, but in the standing meetings, teams took 34 percent less time making decisions, allowing for more topics to be discussed in a shorter window. What’s more, the quickly made decisions were no less sound or reasonable than those made while sitting down.

Give standing meetings a shot—they may just change the way your company makes decisions.

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