Meetings can be one of the biggest time sucks in daily office life, but since we can't eliminate them completely, we've found three big ways to make them more enjoyable and productive.
Improve collaboration in meetings by removing the chairs from the conference room. Researchers at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis used body sensors on two groups of participants and found that team members who stood were more engaged, less territorial about their ideas, and generated more creative results.
Begin by asking participants to share what they need to do or say to be fully attentive, says Dick Axelrod, coauthor of Let's Stop Meeting Like This. One person might need a specific piece of information, another person might need to leave at a certain time, and someone else might just want to vent about being in meetings all day. "It's a clean-slate drill that clears out the noise in everybody's brains and helps them get ready to work," he says.
Make meetings more engaging by making them all voluntary, suggests Axelrod. "Eric Lindblad, a vice president at Boeing, lets his employees make the decision to attend or leave a meeting early," he says. "People are there because they want to be there, and he uses attendance or lack thereof to assess how well he conducts his meetings."
A version of this article appeared in the December 2014 / January 2015 issue of Fast Company magazine.