I’ve survived a lot of meetings during my time at corporate America. A majority of these meetings could have been handled via email or instant messaging. Very few actually deserved face time. I hear a lot of people talk about how busy they are with meetings as if it’s something to be proud of. For 90% of us the value we add to our organization happens in between meetings. So it’s imperative for you to get out of as many meetings as possible.
When I was an admin, I saw on a regular basis what my directors were subjected to poor meetings. Some meetings were so bad the directors would walk out of the meetings as if they just finished doing a “nickel” in San Quentin. So after seeing their plight, I conducted my own research to determine what made good meetings.
Break these rules at your own peril.
Meeting rules to live by
Know your goal: Why are you asking people for their valuable time? Would it be possible to accomplish your goal without a meeting?
Have an Agenda: Most people’s agendas are vague. For example: “To discuss PRD” or “Sync on X.” If you want to to make your meeting effective list out clear agenda items. This allows both parties to understand what the reason is for the meeting, prepare for the meeting so they aren’t caught off guard, and allows them to possibly answer your questions before the meeting so you can cancel it.
Discuss latency caused by frequent API calls (5 minutes)
Determine how much time we should spend refactoring legacy code (8 minutes)
Determine a plan to improve your cat’s job performance (4 minutes)
Time Limits: Each agenda item should have a time limit. “We’ll Jordan I don’t know how long XYZ will take, so I won’t include a time limit.” If you ask any product manager worth his salt, he will tell you all product launch schedules are an educated guesses because you can’t predict the unknown, but without a schedule, he won’t have a deadline to spur progress. Put an estimate in there so you can at least time bound the discussion so you can prevent Parkinson’s law from eating your time and you can force a decision.
Most meetings shouldn’t take 30 minutes: Just because google calendar defaults to 30-minute meetings it doesn’t mean your meeting should take 30 minutes. There’s such a thing as a 10-minute meeting, crazy huh? If you created an agenda with a time estimate, add up the times and schedule the meeting for that duration. If you’re paranoid about going over, schedule an additional 5 minutes
Trim your attendee list: Before inviting anyone, make sure each attendee is vital to the topic at hand. If they are nice to have people, mark them as optional or share post meeting notes with them.
Write a post-meeting 30-second summary: After the meeting is over, write down all of the critical pieces of information you gleaned from the meeting. This will make sure you don’t forget anything and you can share these notes to make sure people follow through on the tasks created from the meeting.
Follow these rules, and your meetings will be much more effective.