No one likes meetings, but sometimes they are necessary. Here are 10 tips on how you can get the most out of your meetings in the shortest amount of time.
1. Keep it short.
Whether 20 minutes or two hours, people tend to use all of the meeting time allocated. Unfortunately, more time doesn’t always equal more productive meetings. Try and determine what the minimum amount of time you need to cover your agenda and keep it at that - meetings can be more effective when people feel a time crunch. Don’t be afraid to schedule a short 10 minute meeting or cutting a meeting short when you have achieved your goal.
2. Default meetings to 25 and 50 minutes time slots.
Most meeting invites tend to be for 30 or 60 minutes simply because that is the default setting of many calendars. The problem is that this setting does not account for the time it takes to walk between meetings or the fact that most meetings run over time. Instead of scheduling 30 or 60 minutes meetings, make them 25 and 50 minutes. This leaves you a time buffer that can help you make sure you stay on schedule. You will likely also find that you accomplish the same amount of work, just more effectively.
3. Have an agenda.
Always have an agenda for your meeting. Include it in your meeting invitation or distribute it at the beginning of the meeting. Ideally, you also allocate time for each topic so expectations among attendees are aligned. An agenda helps people stay on topic and be aware of what needs to be accomplished.
4. Have a clear goal.
Even before you set up your meeting you should know what the goal is. Write it down and include it in the meeting invitation.
5. Assign tasks and deadlines after each meeting.
Leave five to 10 minutes at the end of each meeting to recap what you just talked about. You should make sure to list which action items the meeting has resulted in and assign tasks to attendees with clear deadlines for completion.
6. Only invite the people who need to be present.
You want to be polite and invite everyone but don’t, unless they really need to be there. Go over your attendee list and make sure everyone on it are needed to meet the goal of your meeting. Be respectful of everyone’s time, they will thank you for it.
7. Do you really need the meeting in the first place?
The least efficient meetings are those that are not necessary in the first place. Determine if a meeting is must or if it would be enough to send an email or pick up the phone.
At LiveStories we use Slack for our internal conversations and have allocated so-called “Channels” for different purposes. One of our channels is called Company-Updates we use this channel to post a lot of updates that would otherwise have required the entire company to gather around. Now we can all be in the loop at our own convenience and more effectively.
8. Don’t be afraid of calling out conversations that are off topic.
Even though you have created an agenda, certain words cue people to go off topic. In these situations, don’t be afraid to jump in and acknowledge that it’s an important point, but that it’s outside the scope of this meeting, and then get back to your agenda.
9. Find the best time for your meetings.
Consider the day of the week and time of day for your meeting. Every person is different, some people are most productive in the morning others in the afternoon, but generally, most people are more energetic towards the beginning of the week. At LiveStories, we found that our developers were most productive from 1pm and onwards, so we implemented a rule that meetings with our developers cannot take place after 1pm. If you need people to actively participate in your meeting, maybe Friday at 4pm isn’t the best time. Keep this in mind and the opportunity cost you are incurring if you have a meeting during the time people are most productive.
10. Find the best location for your purpose.
Do you always have your meetings in the same conference room? Maybe it’s time to shake things up a little bit. Consider what would be the best location for the type of meeting you have.
Are you looking to get a quick check-in with everyone on your team?
- Have a short stand up meeting in the kitchen, lobby, or hallway.
Is it a conversational meeting between two or three people?
- Have a walk-and-talk meeting, get some exercise and get the thoughts and conversation flowing.
Are you looking to have a brainstorm session for your new project?
- Find a spot off-site in a place where new surroundings can help inspire new ideas.
These are just some of the things to consider when you are scheduling meetings, but surely there are many more tips and tricks out there. What do you do to keep your meetings productive? Share your best practices in the comments below.