Wow, That Was a Great Meeting!

Said almost no one ever.

Much more common is: “I’d do anything get that hour back!”

Meetings are important. And also a good way to waste time.

Ten wasted minutes in a six person meeting = a wasted hour for the organization. That adds up fast to wasted days and weeks and a frustrated, less productive team.

Here are 9 ways to get the most out of your meetings:

1. Set the agenda and goal. Set the agenda and goal of the meeting. Send them before the meeting and review them at the beginning of the meeting. Having people know the agenda and goal makes it more likely people will follow the agenda and achieve the goal.

2. Have an owner. One person should own the meeting. The owner’s job is to achieve the goal of the meeting. Goals need one owner. Meetings are no different.

3. Focus on the agenda and goal. No point in having an agenda and goal if the conversation goes off the rails repeatedly. It’s okay to let an important discussion progress sometimes, but you may have to refocus the meeting and call a separate meeting for the new topic.

4. No distractions. If you’re in a meeting, don’t use your computer or phone for anything unrelated to the meeting. If you’re not distracted, then the meeting can go faster and achieve its goal. If you want to half-listen, then dial in and mute yourself. If you want a summary of what happened, review the notes afterwards.

5. Short and efficient. Make your default meeting length short. Most meetings can be done in under 30 minutes. If a meeting is scheduled for more time than turns out to be necessary, achieve the goal and end the meeting early. Don’t fill the time just because you have the time scheduled. What feels better than getting 10 minutes back in your day?

6. Start and end on time. Meetings should start on time and end on time (or early). It’s a good way to ensure that meetings are efficient and time isn’t wasted. It isn’t always easy, someone is often late, but make it the culture to be on time and start on time. If one person is late and the other attendees are waiting, that adds up fast to a lot of wasted time.

7. Meetings aren’t for everything. Don’t do in a meeting what should be done in writing and asynchronously. Meetings are good for brainstorms, presentations, debates, and some design reviews. Not good for creating a product, such as doing the designs, building the financial model, or writing the blog post. If instead of a meeting, you can send a document and let people comment, or if you can do most of the work yourself beforehand and then get approval from the team, that’s probably more efficient.

8. Keep meetings small but information flowing. Make meetings open to people who want to attend. Don’t make it feel exclusive. But make it easy for people not to attend by keeping the team updated on the project and sharing notes from the meeting. People will appreciate that they can attend, but will attend only if they think they need to. When meetings are closed and information is inaccessible, people can get political and spend time worrying about what they are and aren’t invited to and what they’re missing out on.

9. Teams and leadership. Good meetings are more likely to happen with good teams and good leadership. So, hire well and keep in mind Google’s research on the two behaviors that good teams generally share: “First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion.” “Second, the good teams all had high ‘average social sensitivity’ — a fancy way of saying they were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues.” And remember Google’s research on the five key dynamics of what makes a great team: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning of work, impact of work.

That’s it! Not meant to be strict rules, and definitely a bit idealistic to think these all get followed every time or even most times, but maybe this can help you keep your meetings efficient and valuable and your team producing strong results.

Thanks for reading. Please share and comment!

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