Meetings are important in any organisation, but not all are not created equal.

Senior leaders spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings every day yet many cannot identify the reason and purpose for them and why they needed to attend. The meetings leaders attend and the way they are delivered are major contributors to not achieving as many high-priority activities in a day as they want.

6 tips to improve time management in meetings

1. Be sure your presence is required

Even if it is your meeting, there is going to be times when there are more pressing tasks that you need to undertake, and you can delegate the chairing and outcomes to someone else.

Just because you are asked to attend a meeting does not mean you have to accept. Also, there may not be a need for you to attend the whole meeting. It may be only the first 10 minutes that you are required.

2. Ensure the right people are there

Only those key stakeholders should be attending the meeting.  If there is a person that doesn’t essentially contribute to meeting process, let them return to core work.

3. Know the purpose

A lot of meetings take up hours of the day, and the only reason they are being held is that they have always been held. On a regular basis ask the question “What is the purpose of this meeting?” If the answer of the group is quizzical looks or even silence, it is time to have a look at why it’s still being held.

4. Have an agenda

If there is no agenda sent out prior, then don’t attend. Set this expectation with your team and they’ll quickly adhere to the request when you stop attending their meetings. Rank the agenda. All topics are not created equally. Work on those topics that will give the best ROI then move down the list.

5. Start and finish on time

If you are invited to an internal meeting, inform your team that if the meeting doesn’t start within 5 minutes of the start time, then you will leave. And follow through. If it is your meeting, then start on time. If people are late to the meeting without prior notification, then treat it as a performance issue and discuss with the person at the conclusion. This strategy is for poor time managers who routinely turn up late. The final tip around time management is to set a finish time and stick to it. Setting a specific finish time forces you to stay focused.

6. Minutes and actions

Ensure minutes are taken and that at the conclusion of the meeting and that actions―with deadlines―are distributed to relevant staff. If there are no outcomes, then perhaps the meeting wasn’t necessary after all.

While some of the above suggestions may seem harsh, if a team is willing to perform inefficiently in front of senior managers then what is happening when the leader is not there.

Furthermore, meetings are a great place for senior leaders to role model behaviours and strategies they wish to see more of.