Recently I read this article from Harvard Business Review which attempts to estimate the costs of running meetings in a company.
Whilst it is useful to measure things like the amount of time and money you are spending in meetings, we must be careful not to get rid of them altogether. Often people try removing meetings by replacing them with emails or other communication. Instead, I think we need to have more productive meetings.
I have noticed a lot of meeting-bashing over the last decade or so, with people saying that meetings are a “waste of time”.
Meetings are a great way to collaborate, so we shouldn’t get rid of them altogether. As with everything, balance is key, so you don’t want to go overboard where everything becomes a meeting.
On the other hand, you don’t want to do everything by email either.
How to Have More Productive Meetings
You don’t want to be one of those managers who calls pointless meetings. They can be costly and a waste of time if they aren’t appropriate. The next time you’re thinking of calling a meeting, make sure you think about these four tips.
1. Have More Productive Meetings By Having An Agenda
This may seem obvious, but there are lots of meetings out there without any agenda. Often I just send out a simple list of bullet points as my agenda – most of the time, this is all you need.
Consider making one of the first points stating the goal of the meeting. Talk about what outcome you want to achieve during the meeting. Then work through your agenda until you achieve your outcome.
If someone comes to the meeting without any idea why they are there, that’s a bad sign.
2. Have Better Meetings By Keeping Them Small
Sometimes people are invited to meetings “just in case” or “just to listen”. You should think carefully about whether these people should be invited at all, and remove them if they aren’t necessary.
I once consulted to a government department in which there were many project committee meetings.
We did an assessment on participation in the meetings based on looking at the recorded minutes for each session.
In some cases we found that there were up to 12 people in a meeting, when only 4 or 5 actually took part in the discussion.
To have more productive meetings, cut out people who you don’t need. Send them an email later, telling them what happened.
3. Have More Productive Meetings By Making Them Shorter
Have you noticed that in many meetings, the first part is spent chatting or waiting for late people? Don’t let that happen with your team.
Often, 45 minutes is all that you will need. It gives you slightly longer than 30 minutes, but leaves 15 minutes at the end for people to debrief or get to where they need to be next.
I strongly recommend you to try 45 minute meetings. The major benefit comes because it gives people back another 15 minutes in their day. They will thank you for it. I’m not just saying that… people actually will thank you!
Most people choose 30 minute or 1 hour meetings. Choose 45 minutes. You might find this is the perfect amount.
4. Have Better Meetings By Stopping When You’re Done
Try your best to achieve the goals of the meeting and then finish straight away. Make sure you have a goal for the meeting first! Parkinson’s Law states that:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
Basically, this means that if you book an hour, you’ll spend an hour… even if you don’t need it.
If you book an hour and then finish after 45 minutes, close the meeting. Otherwise you can be sure that people will chat for the remaining 15 minutes, because that was what was scheduled.
If you’re not finished, schedule more time later. Don’t assume that other people are happy to hang around for longer than what was booked in.
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What are some of your tips for running more productive meetings? Let me know in the comments below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.