Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar icon
Adobe PDF icon

5 Lesser-known Hacks to Make Your Meetings More Productive

~ By Brad Egeland

Three people asleep in a meeting

Meetings…meetings…meetings. If there were a secret formula for keeping our meeting attendees awake, alert, and productive during our meetings, we could make a fortune selling it. It's like some people think it's a personal invitation to take a nap, or not show up at all.

I can't help—at least not in this article—with getting people in their seats, but I can perhaps help with keeping them alert and contributing.

I know personally that these tips have been useful for me as a participant as well as for the meetings I hold as a project manager, watching and listening to my attendees. Timing is critical, avoiding distractions is necessary, and your connection with the participants is essential to ensure they stay awake and contribute to the session.

Here are five of my personal lesser-known hacks for making your meetings more productive.

1. No Whiteboard

Don't use a whiteboard. It takes your eyes off your audience, it depersonalises the meeting, and it frustrates people. It always looks messy and can be hard to follow for those who might be less visual than the rest of the attendees.

2. Perfect Timing: The Hour of Power

Choose a meeting time that gives you the most alert participants. For me—from experience—that is 10-11 am. No one is starving for lunch. No one is driving at break-neck speeds to make your 8 am meeting (and only jerks schedule 8 am meetings). And avoid the after-lunch meetings. Period. You don't know what people had for lunch. Half will be sleepy, a quarter might have indigestion, and the remaining quarter is mad that they skipped lunch to prepare for your meeting. And all will be pining for the end of the work day. Stick with something around the 10-11 am time frame whenever possible.

3. No Food

Do not offer food. I repeat, do not offer food. You don't want that type of meeting facilitator reputation. And it makes people sleepy and easily distracted. And it's messy.

I've recently been in a meeting where the topic veered off onto the food offered, and whether it was better or worse than offered at David's Finance meetings. Just don't offer food.

4. Call on the Distracted Ones

Give the floor to those who appear distracted. It will keep them or get them engaged, or it will force them to prepare better next time. Either way, it's win-win. And if you're conducting a conference call where you can't see everyone, do a couple of round robins during the meeting to get thoughts and feedback. That will keep them alert and engaged.

5. Avoid Taking Detailed Notes or Overusing Your Laptop

While it is critical that you take some accurate notes, avoid burying your nose in your laptop or taking extended silent periods to write down a lot of detail. It breaks your connection with your attendees, loses the meeting momentum and allows minds to wander.

Figure out a better way. That may mean getting good at taking brief notes, having a designated note-taker, or recording the meeting. Just do your best to keep eye contact going. Extended pauses to take notes can lose the audience.

What Are Your Tips?

Ok, there you have it. Five of my lesser-known hacks for making your next meeting more productive. I can't guarantee they'll work for you, but they have worked for me.

How about our readers? What are your personal recommendations for keeping your attendees alert and contributing in meetings? What works best for you?

Comments (3)

Topic: 5 Lesser-known Hacks to Make Your Meetings More Productive
4/5 (3)
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarEmpty Star
21st March 2016 12:10pm
David Aweh (Lagos) says...
Offer the participants peppermint candies at appropriate intervals when you feel they are losing focus amidst a discussion or presentation. Peppermint candy can keep the brain active and alert.
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarEmpty Star
1st April 2016 2:07pm
Nigeria Web Design (London) says...
I'm genuinely intrigued, at what point do you offer the peppermint treats?
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
12th March 2016 4:12pm
Duncan (London) says...
Some interesting ideas Brad, certainly worth bearing in mind.

I was once demonstrating a new logistics software program to a group of business people after lunch. A guy in the front row was asleep. Quite off putting. He woke up at the end of my presentation clapping and nodding vigorously, even though he'd missed most of what I'd said. That particular presentation has stayed with me. I often think about it when I'm preparing to present to a group. I agree with #2, it's best to avoid the slot immediately after lunch if you can.

Add a comment

(never displayed)

Out of 56, 14 or 27, which is the largest?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Managing the "Meeting from Hell!"

Woman looking annoyed in a meeting

Have you just finished the meeting from hell and need help? This article explores three common dysfunctional personalities and how to manage them effectively.

The Good Meeting Manager

Business people gathered for a meeting

You can't guarantee people will look forward to your meetings, so how can you ensure meetings are productive and keep everyone's interest and participation.

Let's Make Those Project Meetings More Effective

Business people gathered around a table for a brainstorming meeting

Meetings are important, but are they always productive? Help make sure your meetings are productive with these nine golden rules for effective meetings.

How to Manage Your Boss: Five Tips for Managing Up

Mature businessman and businesswoman with graphs in meeting at office desk

To succeed in business and project management, you need to manage your boss. Here are five highly useful tips for managing up.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.

Latest Comments

Allana commented on…
12 Tips for Being a Good Manager
- Tue 5 January 8:30pm

George Bockius commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Thu 24 December 3:55pm

Al commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Tue 22 December 10:07pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Query on PMP Numericals about 5 days ago

General Project Management • Problems With Project Planning about 5 days ago

General Project Management • IT project management phrases - 10 terms you need to know about 12 days ago