Give the Gift of Productive Meetings

November 02, 2018

It is officially November; and while your non-hospitality friends may be arguing over whether the Holiday Season begins on November 1st or the day after Thanksgiving, those of us in our industry know that regardless of when the season starts it is always one of the busiest times of year. This is the time of year to really show off what your event staff is made of, and when it comes to planning events or goals for the New Year, sometimes it can feel like we have meetings about meetings.

 Fast Company recently posted an article offering suggestions on how to have more productive meetings, which includes changing the physical meeting location, reducing meeting times, and quick meetings where everyone stands to ensure full engagement. According to the article, 71% of senior managers believe that meetings are either unproductive or inefficient (based on a survey from Harvard Business Review. But ongoing communication is critical in a team environment like hospitality, so meetings are inevitable, and making them productive and efficient is the challenge. We thought the article is a great springboard to dive into how to make your meetings more productive in the wake of the busiest time of year.

 Be Realistic About Time
 Many times, meetings are unsuccessful because the meeting time is too long, the manager is unprepared, or the actual meeting time isn’t convenient for the majority of invitees. From a time management standpoint, be realistic about the amount of time you and others have for the meeting. For every one-hour meeting, managers should be setting aside two hours: a half hour to prepare for the meeting, one hour for the actual meeting, and a half hour after the meeting to follow up on action items. By not allowing enough time for meetings, agendas aren’t used, the meetings ramble on with no direction, and participants leave feeling that the meeting was unnecessary. Then there is the wrong time for a meeting – such as holding a BEO meeting on Fridays at 2pm. This will only serve to frustrate the team who are busy on weekends and have orders to get in for the day. Much of their time in this meeting will be spent dealing with other items, such as email or text messages trying to direct teams from afar.
 Speaking of Agendas - Have a Clear Agenda and Stick to it
Just as your chef sets the menu well in advance of the events being held so he/she can manage their kitchen accordingly, as a manager you should use an agenda to manage employees’ time (and yours) accordingly. Agendas help to keep everyone on task and give them a clear understanding of the direction of the meeting and what may be expected of them. During busy times of year when everyone’s time is precious, an agenda that includes both discussion points and informational points is crucial in ensuring that everyone understands what is expected of them from both a time and contribution perspective. Fast Company suggests using a whiteboard to monitor progress and keep visual sight of the meeting objectives and task at hand.
Change It Up
 The Harvard Business Review found that employees who held walking meetings reported feeling more creative and engaged at their jobs. In especially busy times of year, a walking meeting can be beneficial because walking reduces stress and helps break down barriers between supervisor and subordinate (due to the fact that team members are walking side by side rather than sitting across the table from each other) and can serve as a micro-version of bonding. In our industry, walking meetings are also crucial because sometimes it’s important to physically run through the logistics of how to make next week’s big banquet run smoothly. Walking meetings also force employees to leave distractions behinds and be in a better state to focus on the discussion at hand.
To eliminate the ‘auto pilot’ that sometimes comes with meetings (where everyone sits in the same chair, by the same person, etc.), move the location of the meeting or the meeting table set up. Most of us have spectacular outdoor spaces that can be used much of the year. Changing up the meeting location and set up will bring a new perspective to everyone. This could also be used as a great learning opportunity for setting standards about cleanliness and organization in that space.
If you are a manager who has daily ‘check in’ meetings with assistant managers, be sure to use these wisely. These meetings should be no more than 15 minutes and the quick meeting is the ideal type of meeting to have everyone standing for it to boost engagement.
 Empower Your Employees to Be Productive in Meetings
Most work environments have an employee whose comments often throw the meeting down a rabbit hole that ends in little productivity, long meetings, and short tempers. As we mentioned in our first point, having an agenda that notates what items are up for discussion, and what items are simply informational pieces is crucial. Encourage your employees to stick to the agenda and task at hand, and to take other tangential discussions offline with the involved parties. Might we suggest breaking off into smaller groups for brainstorming sessions and reconvening to capture the highlights? We also suggest soliciting employees for agenda action items prior to the designated meeting time in an effort to transform the meeting from one in which the manager does all the talking, to a more open-ended discussion.
Meetings are necessary. They foster communication and help us to work through problems together, help us teach employees critical thinking skills or other training topics, and lets managers model the behavior he/she wants. There is no need for them to be something everyone dreads because of the extra time it adds onto their day. By finding ways to make meetings more efficient and productive, not only does everyone return to their day-to-day tasks more quickly, but they feel as though their time is valued and employee morale stays high—something everyone needs during the season of giving and cheer!