Meetings are an ever-present—and growing—part of the workday. They are an essential tool for management to disseminate information and their vision. They’re also useful tools for brainstorming ideas, collaboration, and generating employee involvement. But, as an MIT Sloan Management Review unearthed, the average person spends 23 hours a week in meetings. More than a 10 hour increase since the 1960s. With an average work week of 47 hours, that’s nearly half of each week spent in meetings. As we watch the definition of “workplace” expand during and post-pandemic, we may even see that number rise as more work-from-homers jump on video calls to connect virtually with colleagues.

With all that time spent in meetings, we have to ask: Is it all productive? The experts say it isn’t. Conservative estimates place about a third of meeting time spent on idle chit-chat, trying to figure out the technology, and irrelevant conversations. That’s about 7 hours a week of unproductive time. Following a few meeting etiquette guidelines create an atmosphere of mutual respect, improve communication, and increase productivity and efficiency. Read on for seven tips for keeping meetings focused and relevant, whether in person or online.

1. Have the right list of invitees.

Companies are learning they don’t need to invite everyone to every meeting. Some companies abide by the rule of seven and never invite more than seven attendees. These companies believe that seven is an ideal number for everyone to stay engaged (and off their phones) and contribute to the conversation. While the precise number may vary, and be smaller than seven in many cases, everyone invited to and attending a meeting should have a stake in what’s being discussed there. They should also be action takers—in other words, they should be the people with the authority and ability to act upon what’s being discussed in the meeting.

2. Rarely schedule meetings for longer than 30 minutes.

Here’s a meeting truism. If you schedule a meeting for an hour, it will take an hour. If it’s scheduled for two hours, it will take two hours. Not all of that time may be productive as side conversations pop up and unfocused presentations drag on. Instead, plan to make meetings short and succinct. To keep on track, bear the next tip in mind.

3. Every meeting should have an objective, agenda, and designated note-taker.

Instead of scheduling a meeting based on a topic, try scheduling a meeting based on an intent. Examples include: Setting quarterly sales goals, relaying a new HR policy, or brainstorming content for an upcoming newsletter. Having your end goal in mind from the outset will keep the conversation focused. Having an agenda, which identifies who will discuss what when, will also keep you on track. There should also be a designated note-taker. Someone that can keep track of the issues discussed, resolutions, next steps and deadlines. Best practice is to share this information with the group internally as well as prior to the next meeting so everyone is well aware of their roles and responsibilities. 

4. Stow your phone.

Unless you’re looking up something related to the progression of the meeting, keep your phone put away or facedown. Checking notifications, reading emails, and scrolling social media will distract you from the conversation, wasting both your time and your colleagues’.

5. For virtual meetings, prepare as though you’re attending an in-person meeting.

You may be attending a meeting from home, but it’s still a professional environment. Showing up without pants, wearing pajamas (as 75.2% of respondents said they’d done during a recent Fishbowl study), or other behaviors you wouldn’t do in an in-person meeting doesn’t present yourself well. Putting on a professional top and decluttering your background can help you shift your mindset from home to work, and you’ll show up more engaged and ready to contribute.

6. For virtual meetings, mute yourself when not speaking.

Background noise, from ticking clocks to barking dogs, can be distracting when in meetings. Yes, these noises may crop up—and we need to give remote workers grace when they do—however, keeping all sound channels open can create a cacophony of noise to contend with. Be courteous to your fellow meeting employees by keeping yourself muted until you have something to say.

7. During hybrid meetings, maximize the virtual attendees’ experience.

In hybrid settings, when some attendees are gathering in person and some are joining virtually, often the digital participants are excluded. Keep private, side conversations to a minimum so that virtual contributors can follow the meeting flow and don’t feel excluded. When you’re asking for input, seek them out from online attendees first so their contributions aren’t missed.

How LuckyTamm Digital Marketing Can Help

LuckyTamm Digital Marketing has an all-remote team of industry professionals that connect for virtual meetings as needed. We’ve employed these strategies to communicate more effectively in our workplace, and we’re glad to help advise you about communicating in the digital age both within and outside of your company. We offer free consultations. Connect with us, today!