Meetings are expensive. Bad meetings kill morale and waste valuable time. Want to make your meetings better? Here are some things you can start doing today to make them better.
Keep meetings short:
End meetings on time: Similarly, ending on time or early makes for better meetings. Ending at the stated end time is a show of respect for attendees. Meeting organizers with a reputation of achieving their meeting objectives early have better engagement.
Keep the attendee list short (and keep cutting): When you know what you need to achieve in a meeting, you generally know the key people you need to invite.
I use a topic/time/attendee format when I organize meetings that require more than 5 attendees. To do this I:
1.Tag agenda items with the attendees needed for each topic/question
2. Include the amount of time we will allocate to each topic
3. Identify which attendees are required for each topic
4. Sequence topics so ones that need the full group are first. Ones that need a few or specific people are last.
5. Identify “phone-a-friends,” or people that are optional so they understand why they have been included on the invitation and why we might need them.
This method allows attendees to know why they are needed and for how long. More importantly, it gives attendees options. They can show up at the time allotted, contribute, and leave when their topic is done.
For larger meetings, identify helpers: Managing large meetings (10 people or more) is difficult, especially when they are remote. One person cannot facilitate, take notes, manage time and, if needed, contribute. Trust me. You will need to identify several people in advance of the meeting to help with these tasks. Do not wait until the start of the meeting to do this.
A few of the roles you may need:
Facilitator – It’s difficult to be a meeting contributor and trying to facilitate a meeting. Facilitators, especially ones that are independent, third parties, can keep things moving without being personally invested in the outcomes.
Scribe – I find it difficult to take notes if I’m trying to contribute or facilitate. For large meetings, identify a scribe. This person will take notes, capture action items and help with the administration of the meeting.
Timekeeper – a time keeper is helpful when you must stay on track (hint: you should always stay on track). Plan with them in advance how they will call time.
Get a deep dive into the identifying the right participants for your meeting in my post Plan Your Best Meeting: Identify the Right Participants.
Share notes/recaps after the meeting: “Meeting FOMO – fear of missing out” is the way I describe those people that like to be included on meeting invitations for no real reason. They want to make sure they don’t miss anything; however, if you invite them as observers, they can derail meetings. For these folks, I let them know I’ll share the outputs of the meeting with them afterwards.
A few considerations:
1.Indicate this in the invitation (some folks will opt-out and get notes instead)
2. Balance notetaking with return on investment. You generally don’t need a word-for-word recap. Just bullet points of the decisions, issues and action items (with due dates and owner)
Share the notes in a common, searchable repository such as a team channel (Slack, Teams, etc) or wiki so they are freely available to everyone