Holding better meetings

Even if you attend just 2 hours of meetings each working day over the course of your career, then that’s easily 2 solid years worth of meetings over the course of your life. Meetings are a crucial part of any project, but insufficient time is often invested in them, here are a few ideas for improvement to make your ‘2 years of meetings’ better:

Each meeting should have a clear goal

Meetings have multiple functions these including: deciding, informing, asking for something or brainstorming. Be clear on what your meeting is for and make this clear in the meeting title, and whilst you’re at it, consider if you really do need a meeting to meet that that objective – would an email or memo suffice? If so, use an email or a memo. You’re saving not just your time but that of participants so the benefit is magnified. 

Finishes meetings early if you can

If you take a moment to think about it, it’s bizarre that most meetings take exactly the time they’re alloted. If you scheduled an hour to write a report on your own, it may ultimately take anywhere between 15 minutes and 4 hours. However, meetings tend to take the time they’re given, this implies that, to the point above, goals are not clear. Once the goal is met, end the meeting. People will always invent topics to fill a blank agenda – don’t allow it.

Scope the invitee list

Meetings are not a spectator sport. If you have a clear goal, it should be clear who should attend the meeting. Often people attend meeting because they want to know what’s going on, you can avoid this problem by writing crisp meeting summaries and sending them once the meeting ends.

Don’t be scared to cancel meetings

Just as finishing early is good, so is cancelling a recurring meeting that isn’t needed. Recurring meetings can easily invent their own purpose, rather than meeting clear goals. If you don’t have a clear objective cancel the meeting.

Do you really need an hour?

A hour seems to have developed as the default time for meetings, however, that might be too long or too short depending on the topic at hand. Consider huddles or micro-meetings of 15 minutes to coordinate activities without getting dragged down into the details. Equally, real brainstorming can take over an hour to produce really good ideas, because it takes time to build on conventional ideas and innovative thinking.

One response to “Holding better meetings

  1. I agree with almost everything you write, especially about the need for a clear goal.

    I would add a caveat to your comments about scoping the invitee list: sometimes you have to invite people for political reasons. They may not contribute anything, but they’ll make things more difficult later if they’re not invited.

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