I’ve had a lot of meetings the last 4 ½ – 5 years. I have friends that work for big organizations that spend more time in meetings than they do actually doing work.
Meetings are disruptive. Sure they might break up a long Friday afternoon while you’re anticipating your weekend bar crawl, but most of the time they’re breaking up your train of thought, preventing you from finishing a report, or worse.
It’s my belief that 85% of meetings could be handled with a carefully crafted e-mail which respective parties could answer at their own convenience.
Everyone once in a while a meeting is necessary, and when they are there are FIVE things in my experience that greatly increase the likelihood of it being a success:
You would treat a “Just so everyone knows meeting,” a lot different than a “What does everyone think?” meeting. Gosh forbid you bother with “hanging out” or “hear myself talk” meetings. Where I disagree with Seth (Godin) is that I wouldn’t even bother with a “What are you up to” meeting either. I say skip the two minute explanations (most companies do 5-10 at least), and go straight to the compilation of what everyone’s doing in one nice e-mail.
Have Clear Expectations Going In
The leader of the meeting should let everyone know what the meeting is about in advance. This ensures that everyone has time to think about the meeting and come prepared. Though it’s not always necessary, having a supplemental agenda handout with preliminary topics and background information is rarely a bad thing.
Nobody benefits if one person is doing all the talking. Everyone involved should participate and collaborate. This way a wide variety of opinions and insights get heard. Everyone should follow suit and respect everyone else’s contributions. Good leaders welcome all insights up front without ridicule and then narrow down to a solution later. They also let the team members know they’re ideas are valued.
*Side note. Just because someone won’t shut up doesn’t mean they have all the answers. Encourage everyone to speak up, but respect those that require time to process what they’re thinking by not putting them on the spot right away.
Put a Time Limit On It
Most meetings don’t need more than a half hour. Exchange pleasantries later. People have work to do. When the time is up, the meeting is over. If you didn’t accomplish you’re goal you’ll plan accordingly next time won’t you?
Everyone should walk out of the meeting with their next steps and what they need to accomplish. Someone should be responsible for sending out correspondence immediately after the meeting so that everyone has a solid reminder, and no excuse to not be accountable.