The other day on LinkedIn, I saw a post by Brandon Carson, Director of Learning at The Home Depot. Here’s the quote:
Meetings are expensive. The next time you’re in one, scan the room and take a mental note of the cost for everyone to be sitting there.
Based on that comment, it’s become clear to me that too much of the time, we take a passive approach to meetings that waste everyone’s time and money. As such, I think it’s incumbent on us all to hold more effective meetings.
Here’s a list of 3 things you can do to hold more effective meetings.
Start on Time and End on Time
Be known as the person that doesn’t wait for anyone. You don’t wait for the CEO, you don’t wait for your grandmother. If the meeting is at 3 PM, you start at 3 PM. Don’t be an jerk about it. Just think of it as being a punctual person.
The rationale for this is two-fold:
- Your colleagues know to not be late in the future. This saves your time, and saves everyone’s time. Literally multiply 5 minutes by how many meetings you have a year and you’ve got a whopping number. Even if it’s just 1 meeting a day (which is quite realistic for a lot of companies) that’s 20 hours sitting in a conference room doing nothing!
- You show that you respect people’s time. By ending on time, you are putting the onus on yourself for not managing the meeting and getting through what you need to get through in the allotted time. If it is going to run over, say we will schedule another meeting, or take it offline with the relevant parties
Have an Agenda (and Stick to it!)
I cannot emphasize how important this is. When you make an agenda, consider the following:
- Write the purpose and goal of the meeting at the top of the agenda. The purpose is what the point of the meeting is. The goal is what the group is going to get out of it.
- Estimate how long you think each agenda item will take. A rough ball-park is all that matters.
- Don’t put more than you think you can complete in the allotted time. No use in putting 1 hour worth of stuff in a 30 minute meeting.
- Do put in buffer time to account for digression and extended conversations on topics. They are bound to happen.
- Send out the agenda in advance of the meeting so people know what to expect.
- Stick to the agenda! If you see a topic going off the rails, rein everyone back in and point to the agenda as the “bad-cop.” Say something along the lines of “Great conversation we have here, but we have an agenda to stick to, so I am going to move us onto the next topic.”
Have Action Items Leaving the Meeting
A meeting without action items at the end is not a meeting at all. Why did you meet if there’s nothing for people to do after the meeting? A good meeting will have a goal (ideally the one that you wrote at the top of the agenda prior to the meeting), and coming out of a meeting, there should be things people can do to help achieve that goal. Send that out, and hold people accountable to it.
Meetings are a necessity at work. Let’s make them a generator of value, not a drainer of one!
Steven Choi works at Root, Inc. A Strategy Execution Firm. He helps companies execute on their strategy (and apparently hold better meetings).