5 Unconventional Ways to Host Productive Meetings

As you probably know, all meetings aren’t created equal. A goal-oriented meeting with a clear agenda, a thorough preparation and a defined leader is more likely to succeed than any kind of meeting that doesn’t check all of these criteria.

But no matter how well you prepare, people are going to get distracted during the meeting. We’ve found that, in France, the average employee’s attention span is no more than 52 minutes, while meetings tend to drag for 1h19 minutes on average. The obvious problem here is that 27 minutes are lost, for any given typical meeting. That’s quite a lot. So what can you do to keep the room engaged? Lucky for you, companies have tried and tested quite a lot of ideas, here’s a few unconventional ways to host a more productive meeting.

Go “topless” (we’re not talking about that type of topless)

San Francisco-based design firm Adaptive Path came up with an idea to prevent people from getting stuck on email during meetings: they hold topless meetings (as in, laptop-less). Aside from the note-taker (who may use Solid by the way!), attendees of such meetings aren’t allowed to bring any device into the meeting room.

It may sound like a crazy idea at first, but there are a few rules to keep things grounded to an acceptable level. First, the meeting organizer has to let members know in advance that the session will be device-less. Then, meeting time has to be kept to the minimum - This should be a guideline for everyone, by the way. They decided upon 4 hours tops, with breaks every hour, no matter what. And finally, they only do it for “brainstorms, design reviews or essential discussions”… Then again, that should cover every one of their meetings, shouldn’t it?

Remove the chairs

A startup favorite, stand-up meetings sound like an overly drastic solution to those new to the concept. Sure, it removes a big element of comfort from team gatherings. But this comes with a big upside as it will very likely reduce your meeting times. Considering the 52 minutes rule we discussed earlier, this is a good thing. Not to mention french employees under 35 have a shorter attention span of 45 minutes. Obviously, standing up is not right for every occasion, but you should seize the opportunity whenever possible.

For 1:1 meetings, some go for a walk instead of staying inside the office. Mark Zuckerberg infamously walks with key candidates, and Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn CEO, often writes about this practice as well.

Add a timer

There are very few things worse than going to a meeting that keeps going after its planned end time. Timing every item is key in order to avoid such unpleasant (and unproductive) situations. Take from Google and have a projector display a huge clock on the wall so that you know when to move to the next subject and avoid discussions dragging for hours on end.

At Solid, we kick off each week with a stand-up meeting where every one reviews what they did last week, and what’s next on their pipes. It helps having vision of what the rest of the team is up to by helping information circulate through each area of expertise. But that’s only efficient if we make it so: we’re 36 people now. Everyone speaks for 2 minutes and we’re in for a 1:15 long meeting, not exactly our goal here. We’re using a simple smartphone alarm set to 20 seconds for everyone. Sure, we sometimes go over that limit, but we’re saving tons of time just from trying to fit the format.

Embrace Pecha Kucha, the 20×20 format

Pecha Kucha is Japanese for chit-chat. But behind this odd name is a quite simple way to hold presentations that are straight-to-the-point. These presentations follow a 20×20 rule: 20 slides that last 20 seconds. No less, but perhaps more importantly, no more. What will you focus on if you only have 400 seconds to get your point across? If you’re searching for ways to shorten your meetings, Pecha Kucha might be the way to go.

Find the right environment

Some spaces are better designed for creativity than others, besides, a change of setting helps creative juices flow. Getting out of the office to hold your meetings isn’t the easiest thing to do on a daily basis. But it’s worth a shot for some internal meetings. Here are a few solutions to help you get started.

MEET scouted the NYC area for the best meeting-friendly locations and helps their clients conduct events there.

Hoffice is the Airbnb for home offices. Members of the community share their house or apartment with other workers. Why would they do that? To stay focused: some prefer creating a serious, work-focused atmosphere at home by having other people show up than remain at home, in their pyjamas, all by themselves. It’s easy to see how the former can lead to more productivity than the latter.


What have you tried to keep your collaborators focused? Let us know about your ideas to improve your meetings’ efficiency. On your way to more productive meetings? Solid lets your automate the planning, execution and following up of a meeting, making sure you won’t waste time in inconclusive meetings.


photo credit: MEET, pixabay, unsplash