5 ways to improve meeting productivity


The meeting room is booked, invites sent, and you’ve prepared a flawless agenda, now it remains to make sure your meeting is a boiling pot of good ideas and action plans, not the last resting place of productivity.

In a study conducted by Verizon Conferencing, when asked about meeting behaviours, over 90% of respondents admitted to daydreaming in meetings, while 40% said they had dozed off completely.

So how do you keep your meeting attendees from falling asleep? The answer may lie in some of the more tangible components of your meeting arrangements.

Of course, often the hard work put in before a meeting will impact its productivity, including an accurate agenda, clearly defined expectations and the right invitees.

But failing to consider a few practicalities can make all the hard work meaningless.

So what are these productivity killers?

Coffee shakes and sugar slump

We all know coffee as that reliable and delicious friend that can sharpen our focus, and increase both creativity and efficiency.

But as writer and entrepreneur Benjamin Evans explains, “The caffeine will inevitably wear off, dropping you back into a fatigue state and necessitating your next double espresso shot.”

In a confined meeting space, this vicious cycle continues until you have a room of employees full of the fidgets and copious cups of coffee, too wired to concentrate.

Instead, consider providing alternatives like matcha tea, a concentrated green tea powder, which can boost mental alertness without upping the heart rate.

The same principle applies to the sugar high we get from consuming sweet treats. After half an hour, the sugar slump kicks in and meeting attendees eyes are more glazed than an original Krispy Kreme donut.

The University of Rochester Medical Centre suggests, “For a quick burst of fuel, choose foods high in complex carbohydrates. These are healthful sources of energy that digest the quickest.”

Whole grains, proteins and vegetables are all good options if you plan a meeting spread, as well as fruits and juices, which contain a moderate amount of natural sugars to give energy without a lag.

Room layout

Group interaction in a class setting can be a snooze fest. Something as simple as considering the meeting room configuration can have a big impact on attendee engagement.

“How you set a room is the body language of your meeting,”according to Sarah Michel, VP of Professional Connexity at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.

“If you want audience engagement, then set the room to encourage and foster that behaviour,” she suggests.

When attendees sit facing each other in groups, engagement is increased incrementally and productivity increases.

Switch off devices

While incredibly useful in some ways for powering efficient activity, the constant distraction of smartphones and social media can also be a real productivity sapper.

Discussing a 2001 study by research psychologists, Kristi Hedges (author of  The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others ) summarises the findings this way: “When people switch back and forth between tasks, they lose up to 50% of their efficiency and accuracy.”

“The more complex the task – such as your typical meeting strategy discussion – the more processing is lost,” she explains.

This kind of distraction is hard to avoid, as wearable tech becomes more invasive, but Hedges recommends asking attendees to switch off their phones at the beginning of a meeting.

Or better yet, have a “hand in your device” policy.

According to Hedges, during the time Barack Obama was the US President, there was a rule: “Before meeting with President Obama, cabinet members must attach yellow sticky notes denoting their names to their cell phones and leave them in a basket before entering the room.”

It may feel a bit awkward at first, but the benefits of having every participant mentally 100% in the room will mean more efficient, focused meetings that can be wrapped up more quickly.

Meeting time

The timeslot for a meeting can have an impact on productivity too.

“Research into fatigue and behaviour suggests that the time of day makes a difference in how we process information,” according to business website Quartz at Work.

“As the day wears on, we tire, and that affects how we make decisions.”

Quartz suggests scheduling a meeting in the “magic hours” between 9am and 11am, after the morning sleepiness has worn off but before the “distracting pains of hunger” kick in.

As well as the meeting timeslot, the actual timeframe of a meeting should be considered. Within reason, set a timeframe for the meeting and stick to it.

Fast Company recommends, “Set a 30 minute timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.”

Seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel’, so to speak, gives attendees a feeling of motivation to participate, knowing that the time is already ticking down until they can rush back to the sanctity of their desk space.

Idle bodies, idle minds

Sitting sluggishly in a chair for more than half an hour can have a mental toll. It’s a good idea to pause and have a stretch session or a mental exercise to keep things fresh.

Author and motivational speaker Alexander Kjerulf suggests, “Every half hour, do a quick two-minute creative break of some kind.”

“Get people to stand up and stretch, have a quick rock-paper-scissor tournament, ask everyone to tell their neighbor a riddle or a joke, whatever. Make it something fun and light-hearted that activates people in some way.”

Kjerulf also promotes the idea of a two minute silence break mid-meeting, to compound ideas and let the brain process the discussion or consider a decision without extra unnecessary stimulation.


A meeting should be a useful tool for brainstorming, sourcing input and making action plans. Try these tips to freshen things up, and don’t let it become the place productivity goes to die.

Karstens offers a variety of gourmet food options that can be tailored to suit your needs, so ask us about catering for your next meeting.

The right room set up is also essential for a productive meeting, so ask Karstens about our variety of possible room configurations to suit your meeting needs.