The design of your meeting might be more important than the content you plan to discuss.
If you feel like most of your meetings at work are a waste of time, the good--and bad--news is that you're onto something. One survey found that 50 percent of meeting time is unproductive while up to 25 percent of meetings are spent on irrelevant issues. The same way we put deliberate thought into building businesses for our customers, we need to be intentional about planning meetings for their participants. A successful meeting is designed with its participants in mind.
Here are four tips for designing a brain-friendly meeting.
1. Set meeting goals
Each time we succeed at a task, our brains release dopamine, which travels through our brain's reward pathway. When this happens, we feel feel pleasure and motivation. Each time we feel this sense of reward, we are inspired to re-experience that feeling of pleasure, thus increasing concentration and motivation.
Before every meeting (in-person or beforehand) establish tangible, public goals so people know what to expect and understand how to make effective contributions to the meeting. In working toward (and meeting) each meeting goal, people will be more motivated and focused on meeting the next.
2. Split the meeting into sections
For our brains to process new information, our bodies require a significant amount of glucose, oxygen, and blood flow. So, even if we are just sitting around a conference table, we eventually feel physical fatigue over receiving new information.
To prevent participants from burning out, break your meeting into smaller, more digestible sections (a maximum of eighteen minutes). At the end of every section, invite people to reflect and ask questions. Every 2-3 sections, allow people to take a break and leave the room.
3. Get physical
A number of research studies have shown how physical exercise helps boost brain power. When we learn and process information, neurons in our brain are traveling through pathways and making connections. When we move, we stimulate movement in the brain, thus encouraging faster learning and thought-processing.
You certainly don't need to have meetings while jogging, but you might want to consider incorporating movement into your meeting. This could be anything from a quick break for everyone to stand up and stretch to interactive activities which require people to stand up from their seats and move across the room to different stations or groups of people.
4. Meet later in the day
According to a Duke behavioral scientist, our most productive hours are in the first two hours of the morning. This is the time that most people like to dedicate to tasks they want to complete. During morning meetings, most people are too distracted by their more pressing tasks and are unable to give the meeting their full attention.
It seems counterintuitive, but avoid scheduling meetings first thing in the morning when possible. Give people the time to cross other pressing items off their list so that they can attend your meeting with a clear mind and focus on the content that you put forth.
Unfortunately, meetings already have a poor reputation among many employees. To win back your audience, be intentional about designing meetings in such a way that they will be as easy as possible on the brain.