There's a reason that schoolteachers are trained to sprinkle their lessons with questions for students. It's the same reason that dating experts and social media mavens also stress the importance of queries. Questions get people talking and thinking. The same principle works for holding office meetings, too.
Joris Luijke (@meJoris), who runs the HR blog Culture Hacking, suggests channeling the power of questions to keep meetings on point, encourage team participation, and save your employees from wasting time. Here's how:
1. Make every meeting title a question, and seek the answer in the meeting.
Phrase each agenda item as a question, too. "This encourages people to think about possible responses (and therefore it makes people prepare)," Luijke writes.
2. Invite anyone you want, but don't expect everyone to come.
Leave meeting attendance in the hands of invitees: If they think that they can answer the question at hand (or address specific agenda points), they should attend; if not, they shouldn't. After the meeting, e-mail the answers to those who opt out.
A 2012 Give More Media survey on what frustrates employees about meetings drives home the value of an agenda-based strategy. The Top 10 results include complaints like, "No clear purpose or objective," "Not organized. No agenda," and "Doesn't start on time, stay on track, or finish on time." An agenda built around clearly defined questions, if practiced the right way, should dispel these gripes.
And although the data is a bit dated, research suggests that even when employees appreciate meetings, they can still get bored. In 1998, 91 percent of employees admitted to daydreaming and 39 percent admitted to falling asleep during meetings, according to a Verizon Conferencing white paper. That, despite the fact that 92 percent of respondents said they valued meetings as an opportunity to contribute.