4 Steps to Better Meetings

For many of us working in offices and tech environments, our days are spent running from meeting to meeting with virtually no time in between. Yet there is a growing body of evidence that meetings are not the best use of our time. Click here for an eye-opening CALCULATOR published by Harvard Business Review, to provide a cost estimate of meeting time. One national company used the calculator to determine the cost of a weekly check-in meeting with mid-level managers. They learned that the meeting was costing them $3 Mil a year and many people had provided feedback that it wasn’t productive. It had been going on for years. These steps below were initiated by the Chief Technology Officer at my previous company. They include suggestions for meeting organizers and participants.  I hope this helps to make even one meeting better for you and your company or to eliminate a meeting altogether!

STEP 1: Shorter Meetings

Unless there are strict rules within your company (hard to imagine), stop scheduling 1-hour meetings! You can set meetings for 45 minutes to give yourself time for reflection or time to walk from one meeting to the next. You can also set a meeting for 20 minutes instead of 30.

STEP 2: Clear Purpose

Verify the purpose of the meeting and whether you truly need to be there. If you are leading the meeting, make sure to communicate your goals clearly and invite only people who are necessary to achieve those goals. This is a reasonable request. If it is not clear that you are needed, or that someone you have invited is absolutely necessary, ask whether you/they can contribute through email or a quick conversation. Understanding the desired outcome(s) of a meeting is important for everyone involved.

STEP 3: Prepare

While brainstorming meetings are sometimes important, most meetings could be handled much more efficiently with clear goals, preparation, a time-keeper, and facilitator. Make sure you are prepared to lead, or that the leader of the meeting has been identified. Think about how much information is shared in a 5-minute TED Talk. Great meetings are the result of preparation.

STEP 4: Feel free to Decline

If you are being invited and Step 2 is not clear, decline the meeting. It may feel awkward when you are used to accepting most requests; however, declining politely until you understand why you need to be there is incredibly freeing. This can also be helpful to the person who has scheduled the meeting to encourage more time on purpose and preparation. Now it’s your turn. Try all 3 steps for the next meeting you organize. If you are being invited, remember Pause-Before-Accept. When a meeting invite comes in, review the details, scan the participants, and ask questions if the purpose isn’t clear. I have eliminated a number of standing meetings since starting this practice. Let me know what works for you!