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Tips for improving staff meetings

For many employees it is the moment they fear the most the announcement of the weekly or monthly staff meeting. Even the mention of these meetings tends to fill employees with dread. If your staff meetings have evolved from a respite for the staff to gather, share and inform to a time when business trips are being scheduled you are not alone. If staff meetings for your company tend to be unhappy, unproductive and sparsely attended there is hope. By simply making a few restructures to your staff meetings you can improve productivity and make your staff much less testy and tense. Read on for some tips for improving staff meetings.

1. Be sure to agree on the purpose of the meeting. Make sure that everyone comes to the meeting on "the same page." If some of your staff think everyone has gathered to go through projects in detail while others are looking for top-level updates, they are all going to be unhappy. Give the members of your group one minute to report on progress made in their area of responsibility. You will find that this results in bullet point reports of essential information. It also prevents people from explaining, justifying, criticizing, and engaging in other unproductive activities. Plan a time budget for this portion of the meeting for no more than 8 to 10 minutes
2. Have an agenda and stick to it. This keeps the meeting on track.

3. Do not go a minute longer than necessary. On the same note realize that just because you have scheduled an hour does not mean that you have to sit together for 60 minutes if you have covered everything in 45 minutes. Everyone on the staff will be happy to regain some time. Most staff meetings should last less than an hour. You want your staff to spend their time working on things that earn money for the business, not sitting in meetings. Keep staff meetings positive. Negative meetings contain insults, ridicule, and attacks and breed an air of mistrust amongst your employees. These activities create caution and resentment, which always costs your company money. Do not be afraid to have staff meetings that are interactive. Put your staff to work in your meetings to advance the effectiveness of your organization.
4. Bring in occasional guest speakers. This is as simple as inviting someone from another department to update your staff. It is much easier for people to stay up to speed on what is happening in other parts of the organization when they have regular contact. So invite a colleague from another department to come by and give a 20-minute update on what is going on. It will mix things up for your department and keep them connected to the larger organization. And if you are asked to repay the favor to your guest you can do some valuable internal public relations for your department.
5. You can also use staff meetings as time to practice skills. Create team learning activities that sharpen or teach skills needed in your business. For example, you could role play job skills (especially useful for sales teams), solve puzzles (useful for high tech groups), or take quizzes (useful for everyone). Ask different group members to take turns bringing an activity that reviews or teaches a valuable skill. Then it is helpful to follow this activity with a brief recap of key ideas. Ask the group members to give a fifteen second report on how these ideas can be applied to improve their work.
6. Treats are never a bad idea. No meeting was ever worse off for a plate of cookies. If you are a small company and have budget constrants consider having staff members take turns or "potluck" for treats.

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