Workplace meetings are contradictions.
On one hand, they are fundamental components of interaction, collaboration and problem-solving.
On the other hand, it is difficult to manage their abundance, frequency, duration, planning and execution.
Because time and energy are scarce, and opportunities are so high, I have a few personal guidelines for the incredible investment we often disregard as “meetings”:
- The default should be to avoid meetings, given their frequency and abundance of invites.
- Invest in meetings to connect and collaborate with others, particularly when tackling strategic, creative or technical problems.
- Status updates are a waste of valuable meeting time, and should prompt abrupt meeting endings.
- When a meeting is necessary, the default duration should be 25 minutes — enough time to state the meeting purpose, engage in small talk to establish social position, and tackle one to three issues, preferably decisions.
- If a meeting includes formal interaction, discovery or problem-solving — like a business lunch or brainstorm — then the meeting can go for one hour (the limit of most people’s mental stamina).
- The meeting organizer should always facilitate necessary preparation, including an agenda (thanks for the reminder, Pauline Ores) and venue, and communicate expectations of participants and outcome.
- Meetings are valuable interactions, and should be respected by arriving alert, and fully engaging and focusing (no devices) throughout. And no Powerpoint (thank you for the reminder, Jay Bryant.)
- The organizer should articulate the meeting conclusion and necessary actions.
- Closing a meeting means completing your notes and leaving your physical or virtual meeting area in as good — or better — shape than you found it.
- Conducting effective meetings is a craft, and leaders should always be searching for ways to improve their craft.
How do you make your meetings matter more?
Photo: Nathan Jones