Have you ever attended a meeting that left you feeling like you just wasted a bunch of time? If you're like most of us then the answer, unfortunately, is "yes." While this is a common experience, the good news is that it doesn't have to be this way. When meetings are adequately prepared for and efficiently run they can provide a wealth of knowledge, drive productivity, and, ultimately, enact real change.
Here are five things you can do to help make your meetings meaningful, productive and worth everyone's time and energy.
#1 Ask yourself, “Is this meeting really necessary?”
Have you clearly defined the purpose of the meeting as well as the goal? Is a meeting the best way to accomplish your desired outcome? Or could you achieve your goal by simply sending an email or having a one-on-one conversation with someone? A good rule of thumb is to put yourselves in the shoes of those who will be attending the meeting and see if sending the invite still seems necessary.
#2 Refine the guest list
To keep meetings as productive and streamlined as possible, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, has a “two pizza rule.” Under this rule, if it takes more than two pizzas to feed the meeting attendees then Bezos won’t go to (or even have) the meeting. This rule may be a bit extreme for some offices but it’s still food for thought-- excuse the pun.
So, go ahead and review and refine your guest list. If you are worried about offending those not invited, then simply explain that you don’t want to waste their time by having them attend a non-essential meeting. Most people will be grateful that you value their time enough not to waste it.
#3 Think like a Boy Scout
Remember the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. This includes not just preparing yourself but also ensuring that everyone you invite is also prepared. Give them a clear agenda and outline any necessary action items they need to take care of ahead of time. And don’t forget to inform them of the meeting’s structure. For example, is the meeting a brainstorming session, or a lunch and learn? Telling people what to expect, and what is expected of them, helps ensure they come to the meeting prepared and ready to engage in a meaningful way.
#4 Have an organized and assertive leader
Without someone running the meeting it is easy to get off track, and for the most dominant personalities to hijack the conversation. A good meeting leader helps everyone stay on schedule and steer the conversation back on course to ensure it’s in line with the goal. They also clearly define who is responsible for tasks and any next-steps that are defined during the meeting.
#5 Wrapping it all up
Don't underestimate the importance of ending the meeting on time. Not only is it one of the best ways to really show people that you respect their time but it also helps keep them focused. This step can be hard to follow when you have items on the agenda that you still want to get to but keeping people past the end time leads to them being distracted. They will start to worry about being late to their next appointment or falling behind on other tasks, at which point the effectiveness of your meeting rapidly goes downhill.
After each meeting, as you make notes and send out action items, review what you accomplished at the meeting. Did you meet your original goal? If not, then think about where the meeting went off course so you can better prepare for the next time.
Looking for additional ways to make better use of your time at work? Check out 7 Ways to Know if Your Company Needs a PEO.