Having too many meetings is a complaint often heard by those working in both the for profit and non-profit world. Meetings can be viewed as being a waste of time, having no clear purpose and lacking results. Excessive meetings can prevent us all from focusing on our goals and being innovative in the work we do. Elon Musk, for example, (who seems to know something about moving ahead and being innovative), states that ‘excessive meetings are the blight of big companies’ and many would agree. Meetings can, however, be a great way to make decisions, share ideas and work towards goals.
Here are 7 tips for having more productive meetings:
1) Limit Attendees
- Include only those who are directly responsible for the decision being made or who have a direct involvement in the content of the meeting. Big companies like Google and Apple are famous for keeping meetings small and many experts suggests most meetings typically need no more than 10 attendees.
2) Define the Purpose – be specific and have a clear agenda
- Get input from people ahead of time on what items need to be on the agenda.
- Ask yourself if the meeting is necessary. Is there a more efficient way to communicate and share the information.
- What is the direct purpose of the meeting (and the indirect purpose)?
- When possible distribute the agenda ahead of time and include the purpose and objective of the meeting.
3) Be Prepared
- Spend time planning and preparing for the meeting – if you are running the meeting then you owe it to everyone in the room to prepare for it and make sure you are not wasting their time.
- Set up the room – make sure the location fits the need of the meeting. For example, does it need to be in a very private location or would it be better to get out of the office. Sometimes changing the location of a regular meeting can breathe new life into it and shake things up.
- Start on time – even if everyone is not at the meeting start it anyway, otherwise you send a clear message to everyone that it doesn’t matter if you are on time or not.
4) Keep it Short & Concise
If a meeting is scheduled for 2 hours then chances are it will last 2 hours. Meetings, like work, expand to fill the time available, so when possible keep things short and end meetings early when the agenda has been covered and the objective of the meeting reached.
5) Keep it Tightly Focused
- Stick to the agenda – check if there are other items to add to the ahead of time and then prevent the meeting from getting derailed and loosing focus.
- Don’t talk about the specifics of one persons situation if it doesn’t apply in any way to others.
- For regular meetings it can be helpful to have an overall structure the meeting. For example, starting with recognition and ending with an accomplishment of the team.
6) End with Action Items
- To often meetings can feel like Groundhog day. The same topics are covered and decisions are made over and over again. End each meeting by clearly defining the Action Steps needed, who is responsible and the time frame. Start the following meeting by reviewing these items to ensure forward movement is happening.
7) Set a Positive Tone
- Start the meeting on a positive note. It can be easy to get tied up with crises and negatives which can make for a really depressing meeting.
- Emphasize solutions – don’t spend huge amounts of time just complaining and problem finding. Focus on how situations can be improved and steps to remedy situations. If a problem is being discussed identify situations when it doesn’t occur and figure out why.
- Encourage everyone to participate by making the meeting open and relaxed.
What are some ideas you have for making meetings more engaged and more productive? Do you see meetings as a productive way to work towards goals or the biggest time suck?
Here are some resources on running effective meetings: