Most of us have sat through a meeting or two long and pointless enough to make us lash out in primal fury. Some of us can probably even admit to being the conductors of meetings like this.

Not only do your employees have a million different things vying for their attention, but they’ve got remarkably short attention spans.  Don’t waste your time, or your company’s time, with methods of communication that are ineffective. If you’re not reaching your employees with your message because they tune out or can’t comprehend the take away, you’re losing money and effectively reducing your productivity!

Keep these three things in mind for every meeting you have.

  1. Set goals for your meeting
  2. Set an agenda that caters to your goals
  3. Stick to the agenda!

1.  Set goals for your meeting.

Why are you having the meeting in the first place?   What do you hope to accomplish?   These are things that you should ask yourself right from the start.  When you’re done, everyone should feel enlightened and more prepared than they were before the meeting happened, not more confused and less inspired.

It’s important to not attempt to tackle too much.  It’s better to have a concise meeting that leaves participants informed and happy on a smaller amount of things than a superfluous meeting that leaves people confused or uninspired after too many topics are discussed.  Remember to focus on what’s important.  Follow-up on the things that can wait until afterwards.

2.  Set an Agenda that caters to your goals.

If what you’re talking about doesn’t relate to the goals you’ve set for the meeting, you probably shouldn’t be talking about it.  Save funny stories, irrelevant tangents or important, but unrelated material for after the meeting.  Not only does this mean that those conducting the meeting must stay on track, but everyone should help reel-in those that take the discussion in unproductive directions.

Always aim to have meetings last 30 minutes or less if possible, but never go longer than an hour.  Studies show that that the average person begins to lose interest in something they’re not continuously involved in after half an hour.  For the love of God, please look around the room.  If anyone is nodding off, drooling or looking at you like you’re wearing a suit of armor, it’s time to end the meeting.  Allow enough time for your goals to be met, tasks to be assigned, questions to be answered and nothing more!

3.  Stick to the agenda!

Remember, you’ve got a limited window to accomplish your goals before people start to tune out.  Don’t ever spend too long on one thing when you’ve got a whole list to accomplish.  If there’s something that’s becoming a road block, move on.  Assign tasks to those that can work through the issue and follow-up with them later.  If things have gone horribly astray, stand up and bring them back on track.  Don’t let your meetings drag on and on.  The longer that happens, the less productivity you’re getting out of your employees.

Also keep in mind that the problem isn’t just that people tune out.  It’s that people become frustrated and tired when they receive an information overload.  Going back to work and being productive aren’t the easiest things to do after sitting through an unorganized multiple hour meeting.