How to make meetings productive

The term ‘Meetings’ has become synonymous with all self-confessed ‘busy people’. 25 to 50 per cent or more of most managers’ time and talent is usually tied-up in meetings. Considering how badly most meetings are run these days, it’s no surprise to learn that the age-old practice of getting a group of people together for a common goal has become such a contemptible and dreaded activity. Most people even think that it is just wasting precious time which could have otherwise been spent fixing bugs, designing applications, polishing pitches, writing reports — anything that involves actually working rather than sitting in a room (or on a call) staring into space.

It is hence important to realise that meetings are relevant and conducive to a successful and productive working environment. We can’t rid the world of meetings. After all, the benefits of meeting does sometime outweigh the costs. There are steps we could take to make sure that our meetings are more productive and that we meet more wisely.


Below are the Q-A sessions in Rediff chat answered by Amit Bansal, the founder and CEO of PurpleLeap.

rishikeshpillai asked, Conference calls are a new form of meetings.. how does one make concalls effective?
Amit Bansal answers, Keep it short and simple. Get people to answers questions. Mix open and closed questions. Use a online interface like chat along with your call if possible to do online votes etc.,

sumit asked, i come from a co. wherein the sales team has 50% of the team who are above 55 years of age. Hence, the participation in meetings is just for the sake of attending. How do you get them to speak and interact?
Amit Bansal answers, A difficult to task to begin with. You may want to keep the meeting short and do a lot of interaction before any meetings.

UDAY asked, In my opinion meeting shall start with certain ajenda and with possible recomandation/solution by participant to get fruitfull result at the end of meeting. Pl let me have your suggestion.
Amit Bansal answers, The structure you mention is more for a brainstorming session. Of course, that is one of the types of meetings. Keep the session not more than 60 mins at a stretch.

preet asked, Good afternoon Amitji, Even though I prepare the agenda and am quite ready for meetings, I usually am silent in meetings. I think I get nervous and am not able to articulate. How can I better myself?
Amit Bansal answers, Maybe visuals or props might help you articulate better. Have you tried it?

artvind asked, how much time should we spend on review of last meeting
Amit Bansal answers, You should not have waited for it. The follow-up should be done in between meetings.

hari asked, how to ensure that the participants’ retention levels are high post the meeting
Amit Bansal answers, End the meeting with a high: activity, video, participant’s summary etc.,

Shom asked, How to point something that few in the meeting may not like?
Amit Bansal answers, First you to know if you have built trust with the group. If you have then you need not worry a lot about what they might think. In case you have not had the chance to build trust, then analogies may work for you than directly being blunt. Overall, your approach will depend a lot on your personality and your group’s personality, the naure of the business, the culture of the company…

vish asked, what care should be taken care while some of the members are on phone meeting.
Amit Bansal answers, Phone meetings are more difficult to moderate than in-person meetings. You need to prepare better for this. One thing you can do in this (if you are moderating) is that your talking to should be minimal and group engagement should be maximum. Also, keep a member talk time to a max of 3-4 mins before you intervene.

viswanath asked, Hello Mr. Amit. As per my opinion, meetings are effective for dissimination, objectives/goal setting, brain storming, introduction. Are there any other points??? Thank you.
Amit Bansal answers, How about motivation? What do you think?

Anirvana asked, Hi Amit, I’ve just joined my job. Meetings somehow remind me of college lectures where people are sitting and listening and the big guy speaks and speaks. Is there any way I can be prepared for these meetings and contribute?
Amit Bansal answers, Give yourself a bit of time. Intially do a lot of observation like you are doing now. Initially keep your involvement tactical and once you understand the culture you can dig deeper.

sas asked, whats the best way to impress a cxo level persons in board meetings
Amit Bansal answers, Speak their language while sticking to what you do best!

Amit Bansal says, Here are 10 things you can do to make meetings productive: (from 1. Hold Only Necessary Meetings. 2. Make Copies in Advance. 3. Have and Agenda. 4. Set Time Limits. 5. Honor Time Limits. 6. No Cell Phones. 7. No Email. 8. Stick to the Agenda. 9. Assign a Recorder. 10. Follow Up.

bchanda1965 asked, Sir, how successfully to run a meeting. As a HOD, should I conduct meetings regularly. how often?
Amit Bansal answers, Here are 2 things you can try: 1)Five minute meetings in the morning on what each one wants to achieve and what was not achieved from yesterday 2) Have you tried standing meetings?

N asked, 5 tips for effective power point presentation please
Amit Bansal answers, 1) Visuals 2) 3 (max)single-word bullets on each slide 3) Have a ‘story” for your presentation 4) Dont exceed 5 slides 5) Don’t exceed 18 mins of presentation asked, how we can monitor the results of a meeting
Amit Bansal answers, Monitoring can be done by assigning actionables during the meeting and you making a note of it. You can follow this up by staying in touch with them.

sunil asked, Hi Amit, sometimes my mind just goes numb during meetings and suddenly when someone asks me a question i realise that I’ve been in another world. Is there any way to concentrate on meetings?
Amit Bansal answers, Tough I understand. But this is one of those tough things which one needs to do in today’s world. One clear thing you can do is check if you have a choice. If you really do not have to part of the meeting then don’t be, you can always get an update from your colleague.

lalit asked, A lot of people who are attending a meeting seems to be not concentrating during the meeting as they are in opposing mood on some topics, or they might not be a part of discussion. How those people can be productive in the meeting? how can they concentrate in the meeting?
Amit Bansal answers, First of all, inviting members needs to be done cleverly. Maybe the ‘backbenchers’ are not required to be there! Second, you can speak to people beforehand who you think can get disengaged during a meeting. A small chat can help them to stay tuned.

Sams asked, Is it required to have visual tools for a meeting beyond 30 mins. How does the presenter keep every team member engaged during the meetings.
Amit Bansal answers, Visual tools can be restricted to 15 mins. It is difficult to keep your audience engaged beyond that time.

vicky asked, Iam from sales, having daily meeting in morning , how to motivate team members what to ignore etc
Amit Bansal answers, Maybe keep the ball more in their court. In other words, let them do maximum of the talking and you can coach them as they speak.

abc asked, Meeting should be in morning or later afternoon
Amit Bansal answers, Mornings are great when decision making is involved, especially complex decision making. If it is routine decision making then time does not matter.

PrasannaShetty asked, Sir, how do you set the culture of starting on time? On so many occasions I find that people just dont turn up for the meeting. Often I am the only person in the room!
Amit Bansal answers, Good habit! Keep it up and I suggest that you continue it. Do you moderate all the meetings you sit in?

notty asked, how to convey your point in a meeting where your boss disapproves everything you say?
Amit Bansal answers, Communicate with your boss pre- and post-meetings. This might help instead of bouncing new ideas during the meeting.

Amit asked, How do you subtly tell your boss that s/he is straying away from the topic?
Amit Bansal answers, This depends on the nature of the relationship with your boss. Let us say the agenda was Topic A. You could ask a question which links the current topic with Topic A. This could suggest that the group could be digressing and will help the boss to steer it back.

digvesh asked, How frequently we should take the meetings daily or weekly?
Amit Bansal answers, This depends on the nature of your business. Typical frequency is weekly, but that is typical.

Amit Bansal says, Broadly meetings can be mastered by looking at things in 3 blocks: Before the meeting, during the meeting and after the meeting. There are specific things which you can do in these 3 blocks which will help you successfully attend/conduct a meeting.

srini asked, some bosses will conduct the meeting and will spend more time than working how we can avoid
Amit Bansal answers, Well I doubt you can control about what a boss might like to do, but what you can do is you can stay focussed on the flow of the meeting and learn (what to do and what not to do) when you lead meetings.

mam asked, plz give 10 points or 5 points to make meetings successful
Amit Bansal answers, Some of the best practices are: 1) Set an Agenda, 2) Assign responsibilities during the meeting, 3) Assign one team member to jot down the minutes, 4) Help people stay on the agenda with your facilitation skills. 5) Set the scope (what will not be covered in the meeting) as well

mam asked, Sir, I agree that meetings don’t serve any purpose. Plz guide as to what shd a manager do during meetins.. or 10 pts to make a meeting successful
Amit Bansal answers, Meetings do have an important purpose. Manager can play several roles during a meeting. One of the roles can be that of a facilitator



Chat Date: Feb 29, 2012


What’s going on at our terminal?

By Celeste Dean

Lead Consultant-Business Skills, PurpleLeap

Last night I was watching the movie ‘the terminal’ starring Tom Hanks. Besides the fact that the protagonist is my favorite actor, the movie opened my eyes to a lot of questions many of us continuously think about; whether we are students preparing for a corporate life or professionals leading a peaceful or chaotic professional lives.

While I was watching this movie and thinking, a few things fell in perspective in my life.

1.  Being at the wrong place at the wrong time: Viktor Nevorski (aka Tom Hanks) a resident of the country of Krakozhia reaches JFK airport just to find out that while he was in flight his country went to war and does not have a sovereign status under the US laws. Therefore, his passport and legal status as a resident of that country is forfeited and he is now an ‘Unacceptable’.

Many a time we also find ourselves stranded at the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe we chose a particular stream of study as advised by our peers or parents (becoming an engineer is good for you or an MBA degree will give you an edge in the job market). But when we started off we realized we are stuck, with the wrong subject and a wrong college as well. Same goes for working professionals as well. At one time out of desperation to find a full time job I picked up a job where I found myself stuck. I was stuck in a wrong profile and with wrong people.

Are we dealing with this stage today? Or were we in this stage at any point of time in our life?

2.  The idea is what do we do with the wrong timing and place: Ever heard of the phrase ‘Everything happens for good’? We use it more often than we think we do and always to pacify ourselves that we are here because we lacked options. Viktor, in the JFK transit lounge loses the food coupons given to him as an act of mercy by the immigration department, does not know how to use the calling card and on top of all this misery can barely speak or understand English. Until he watches the television, he does not even know why he’s not allowed outside the airport. Now that can be too dramatic to handle. But what I liked was the way opportunity was identified by him. He notices that every time he deposits the baggage trolleys at the trolley station the machine gives him 25cents. Well, an opportunity identified an acted upon!! He finds an occupation on the airport which allows him to eat and keep him busy.

 So we are at the wrong place at the wrong time? Now what do we do about the entire situation. We have two options, either we curse everyone for allowing us to be in that situation or we find an opportunity to grow in that situation? Last week I was interacting with a colleague who is planning a workshop for all employees of our organization on designing a robot. We will learn to make our own robots. The management is contemplating that this will be a waste of time for non-technical people. I am totally a non-technical person; all I would learn in that workshop is to build a robot that runs on my command and does what I want it to do. I will screw its bolts and solder its wires and apply a little mathematics which I have long forgotten. I guess that’s all I will learn…. I will only learn a sense of achievement and a few more things after dirtying my hands with tools.

3.  Doing the right thing in the wrong place: The immigration officers at the JFK airport got so fed up with Viktor since he was able to find a job at the airport that paid and almost made gate 63 of the terminal his home. Since the possibilities of him going back to his country were grim till the civil war continued and they could not allow him on the US soil, they plotted to allow him to escape from the airport so that he becomes someone else’s headache.

 Last week a professional asked me, my boss doesn’t care about making meetings productive or effective. He organizes meetings to waste time. Why should I care about these meetings at all? Well good thought I must say. But if this situation is bothering him and affecting his productivity, then it’s a huge concern for him. But if it doesn’t and his coffee still tastes the way it used to be when he was doing a productive job then he can go ahead and care two hoots. But if our coffee doesn’t smell the same we will do something to make it smell good.

So how do we know that what we are doing is the right thing or not? It’s fairly simple, anything that does not add to our growth and productivity, anything that does not make us a more positive person and anything that does not add positively towards our self-image and self-esteem is not the right thing.

So, are we at the wrong place at the wrong time? Then look at what’s going on at our terminal. Maybe until the wrong timing lasts we will be doing a lot of right things… bringing a change not just to our life but inspiring others too.

Have a great flight and stay productive! 🙂