Hospo Stories

Meetings: Strategies to Avoid Wasting Time

Meetings are an inescapable part of many of our workdays, and this is no different in hospitality than it is in a corporate office. Daily briefs, weekly revenue meetings, monthly guest service analysis, quarterly sustainability reviews – we are regularly coming together to discuss the business and its operations.

Unfortunately, it is also inescapable that many of these meetings are not the most productive use of our time. Often, they are held to tick corporate boxes or to meet other external expectations rather than out of any real need. And even a meeting convened with purpose can go off the rails due to a lack of participation or focus.

No matter how much we would like to, though, we can’t abolish meetings all together, so how can we ensure that we make this use of time and resources efficient and effective? If you feel like your time could be made more productive, consider the following strategies:

Define Clear Objectives

In order to avoid having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting, you need to understand exactly why everyone is coming together. For this, you need to set specific goals. Define what needs to be accomplished, whether it's making decisions, brainstorming ideas, or sharing updates. This helps keep the discussion focused and prevents tangents. It also helps to define who needs to be invited.

Create an Agenda

Prepare a detailed agenda with topics, time allocations, and discussion points. Share it with participants before the meeting so they can come prepared. Stick to the agenda to avoid wasting time on unrelated topics.

Invite Only Essential Participants

Include only those individuals whose presence is necessary for the meeting, and make clear what preparation is required. Too many participants, or participants unable to contribute, can lead to inefficiency. Others can be briefed later through summaries or follow-up emails. And remember, essential people include those who will be directly impacted; if the weekly revenue meeting is focusing on lunch sales this week, the F&B director should be invited.

Set a Time Limit

Allocate a specific time frame for the meeting and adhere to it. This encourages participants to stay on track and prevents meetings from running longer than necessary. And when it comes to time frames, the shorter the better – we have guests to look after, and this can’t be done from the boardroom! If your meetings tend to run long yet you don’t feel like much is accomplished, try allocating 15 minutes instead of an hour – and most importantly, cut it off at the deadline. After a few times you will find that proceedings become more focused, and you will hopefully get the outcome you are looking for.

Use Technology Wisely

Utilise video conferencing, collaborative tools, and presentation software effectively. Ensure that all participants are comfortable with the technology before the meeting starts to avoid technical glitches. There is nothing more annoying than spending 10 minutes watching the presenter or host fumble with getting the sound to work.

Encourage Participation

Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts. Encourage participation from quieter members and manage dominant talkers to ensure diverse input. And though closer teams may joke around, an overall atmosphere of respect for the ideas and input of others should be maintained.

Stay on Topic

Gently guide the conversation back to the agenda if it starts to deviate. Politely acknowledge off-topic discussions and suggest discussing them separately if needed. Try the parking lot technique if an important topic arises, putting it aside for later discussion without derailing the current conversation.

Minimise Distractions

Request that virtual participants mute their microphones when not speaking to avoid background noise. In person attendees should be encouraged to turn off notifications on their devices. It may not be possible for meetings to be interruption free due to operations, but emails can almost always wait until later.

Assign Roles

For larger meetings, or ones with a history of going off track, try assigning roles. Designate a facilitator to guide the meeting, a timekeeper to ensure discussions stay on schedule, and a note-taker to record key points and action items.

Follow Up with Action Items

At the end of the meeting, summarise key decisions, action items, and deadlines. Share this information with participants afterward and hold them accountable.

Evaluate and Improve

Regularly assess the effectiveness of your meetings. Solicit feedback from participants and make adjustments as needed to continuously improve the process. Teams in hospitality tend to shift with some frequency, and you may find that the format needs to shift as well as the make-up changes.

Consider Alternatives

Sometimes, a meeting might not be the best way to achieve your goals. Consider whether a quick email update, a shared document, or a brief one-on-one conversation might suffice instead.

Finally, it’s important to consider the content of your meetings, especially the daily ones. As an example, think about the daily briefing: a team, or teams, come together before each shift to talk about the day’s operations and any other important information. These meetings are important, but too often a leader insists that everyone participate – even if they don’t have anything to contribute that the rest of the group really needs to know about. This can lead to repetitive and unnecessarily long meetings, as well as frustration among the attendees. Better, then, to define what information is useful; if only one or two other people in the meeting need to know, this may be better imparted separately.

Meetings are an important part of communication in hospitality and can be a source of new ideas and comradery. However, they must also be purposeful and efficient or risk becoming a source of resentment. By implementing some strategies to keep them timely and on track, you can create a culture of productive meetings that lead to better outcomes.