If You Have to Have a Meeting at Least Make it a Good One

OK. So you have to have a meeting. I get it. I’m no “meeting prude” and I certainly don’t think that ALL meetings are evil. Only most. But if you have to have one then make it matter. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your teammates’ time. Here are some commonly accepted but rarely practiced tips that can help make your next meeting a productive one.

Send an Agenda in Advance

This is glaringly obvious but still needs to be said. When people show up to a meeting with no idea or a foggy idea of what the meeting is about you end up spending (make that, wasting) a huge amount getting everyone on the same page. Wouldn’t it make more sense to send out the agenda in advance?

A good agenda has 4 components.

  1. A clearly stated purpose. Not just what is the meeting about but why you are having it. What is to be accomplished.
  2. An outline of topics to be discussed. What are we going to talk about? What are we going to work on? Here’s a key: never hold a meeting with more than 5 topics. After that it just becomes noise.
  3. Owners for each topic. Who will lead the discussion? You think that’s a bit elementary? Me too. Do it anyway.
  4. Time constraints for each topic. Determine in advance how much time each topic will be allowed. If time runs out then either take it from another topic or table the discussion for later. Don’t let meetings run over!

Send Materials in Advance for Reading

Don’t make people wait for the meeting to see proposals, Powerpoints, etc. I know you want the element of surprise and amazement but that’s how you manage entertainment, not meetings. If you want to hold your scintillating conclusion until the end then leave it out but send the rest.

Start and End on Time

If you say 10am then start at 10am. I don’t care who didn’t show up. The best way to encourage everyone to gradually slip into lateness is to wait. In the same way, if you said the meeting would end at 10:30am then do it. It better be really important and not your lack of planning that causes a meeting to spill over. The net effect is that when one meeting spills over then every other meeting or call for the rest of the day either has to make up for your overtime or run late as well.

Silence the Blabbermouth

If one person’s opinion is more important than everyone else’s then just let them make the decision. Otherwise never let someone dominate the meeting. Over the years I’ve asked CEOs and Presidents to stand down and let others talk. The smart ones get it. The rest don’t really matter.

Oh, and if you’re the big kahuna then let others talk.

Review Conclusions

What did you decide? What was assigned as a takeaway? A to do? Don’t leave the meeting without a shared understanding of what happened and who will do what by when.

Determine a Meeting Headline

Most of the time, when managers meet, the rest of the team sits back and wonders what negative will be the result. The adage is “Nothing good comes from behind closed doors.” So, before you leave, agree on what you will tell people about the meeting. Was it awesome? Was it informative? Were you working on next year’s budget? Agree on what you will say and then say what you agree on.

Stand Up

I’m much more in favor of short, stand up huddles than long, sit down meetings. There’s a reason the NFL doesn’t put chairs on the field during a ballgame. Don’t make meetings comfortable. Make them easy to wrap up and leave.

Conclusion

Remember, we’re talking about a minimum of 20% of your business life. Meetings can matter but, like most things, they need discipline to work.

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