Inefficient, lackluster meetings end here.

By Caylin Harris and Maggie Seaver
September 25, 2019
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Meetings can sometimes feel like an unnecessary waste of precious desk time. Yes, in retrospect, many meetings seem like they probably could have been replaced with an email, but not always. Getting together face to face can often be the best work communication option—it just depends on the circumstances. For example, finding it difficult to communicate thoughts, ideas, or feedback to a group in less than a few paragraphs? Are multiple departments involved? Are you looking for feedback or a more open brainstorm? Opt to meet. And when you do, make sure you're making the most of the time you have with the group. Here's how to set the mood, keep things moving, time it right, and get a word in edge-wise in a work meeting.

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1. Timing is everything.

Decision fatigue generally occurs as the day progresses, says Melody Wilding, a licensed social worker and career coach. For this reason, schedule a stats report, logistics, or other nuts-and-bolts meeting for late morning (post-coffee!), when people tend to be sharper and more focused. Afternoons (post-lunch), on the other hand, when people are naturally tired (human circadian rhythms tend to dip naturally around 3 p.m.) are best reserved for a brainstorm or free-flowing meeting. In fact, according to a study from Albion College, you’re actually more creative when you’re tired.

2. Keep things moving (while still being heard).

Meeting etiquette should be pretty intuitive, but there are a few safe guidelines to follow for optimal communication. To avoid interrupting a colleague and breaking the meeting's flow, wait a beat after someone speaks to make sure they’re done. Then feel free to jump in. Struggling to get a word in? Try "bookmarking" by raising your hand slightly, like you’re signaling a waiter; this tells everyone you’re next, says Vanessa Van Edwards, author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People ($12; amazon.com).

3. Set the tone for collaboration and productivity.

Using inclusive language, like “we” instead of “you” or “I,” helps foster a sense of unity, especially in tense settings, says Van Edwards. Where you meet and how the space is set up affects the atmosphere too: Research from two Canadian business schools found that sitting at a round conference table encourages collaboration, while a square table can spark competition.

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