Forward Science Blog
5 Steps to Hosting Meaningful Meetings
Meetings do not have to be pointless, painful and all-consuming.
They are meant to be selectively scheduled and consistently productive,
but that is not currently the case for normal business meetings.
Here are a few startling statistics on meetings (and why they need to change):
- The average employee attends 62 Meetings Per Month
- An executive spends an average of 23 Hours Per Week in meetings and 34% Of Their Time in poorly run meetings.
- 2 Months Of The Year down the drain is wasted sitting in meetings
- Google Calendar’s default for the proper time length for a meeting is 30 Minutes
- The average person can spend 10-18 Minutes paying attention to something before their mind starts to wonder
It is obvious that meetings need to change, but how? Who is going to spearhead making changes in your organization to alter the way we think about meetings?
Change starts with you. Whether you directly implement this for your team or bring it to your supervisor… We’ve put together 5 steps to hosting meaningful meetings in your organization.
5 Steps to Meaningful Meetings:
1. Decide – Is the meeting necessary? If so, what type of format should it be?
So many people schedule meetings because they feel meetings equal productivity. Work is productivity, meetings (IMO) are just the beginning of work that needs to be done. If you know what you need to do, then a meeting is not necessary. If you are trying to accomplish a task but need information from other departments, then a meeting is necessary for you then to do your work.
Non-work meetings are often scheduled for managers to hold their team accountable. These “check-in meetings” are often used for goal tracking, priority reviews, or troubleshooting. Where these check-in meetings are helpful at times, I also believe a well-run project management system can alleviate some of these “update” type meetings as managers should be able to see what their team is working on with a well-run system in place.
Tip: Our entire Forward Science team utilizes Asana.
2. Schedule – What’s the right time, length and who are the necessary team members for the meeting?
The 4 W’s we were taught in school always beginning with “Who” and that is the start to a good meeting. Who needs to be at the meeting is essential – we want all of the people involved with the meeting purpose or people the decision may affect, and not anyone else! This is not the more the merrier concept, less is more for this one.
On the other side, if you are receiving meeting requests, do not have MAS (Mindless Acceptance Syndrome) and blindly accept every meeting you are invited to. Look at the invite and agenda and if you do not think you need to be there, speak to the meeting originator or simply decline it. Time is our greatest asset, so make sure we always protect it.
Most organizations block of 1 hour for all meetings, while Google calendar is set to a 30 min default calendar invite, while other people preach about the perfect 7-minute meeting, so which is the best length for a productive meeting? Throughout my career I have seen Parkinson’s Law proven time and time again. Parkinson’s law states that work expands to the time allotted to it. So, those hour meetings seem to always last at an hour, because that is the time allotted for it. But can we shorten the length and still be productive? I believe so…think about it this way, most people’s attentions spans are between 10-18 minutes (hence why Ted Talks are less than 20 min). What if we ask everyone to eliminate distractions (no cell phones, computers, etc…), and let’s focus for the time we know we can – 15 minutes and then we can do work, or chit chat elsewhere… Here is how I look at it, if I can reduce the 1-hour meeting to a 15-minute meeting, and I have 62 of those per month, that means that I have over 46 hours more per week that I get back (I can spend that time with my family – priceless!)
3. Prepare – What’s a results-driven agenda?
Meeting leaders are responsible for making meetings efficiently working towards results. Preparation is key to making sure you are set up for success for each meeting. Below are 3 preparation items for each meeting:
- Pre-Work: Leaders should clearly explain the purpose of the meeting and provide any background information for the meeting (so that the first 15 minutes is not just explaining what is going on).
- During Meeting: Following the agenda / timelines, minimizing distractions, taking good notes, and writing down action items are all essential for a good meeting
- Follow-up Work: Leaders should send out a meeting recap along with follow up tasks and timelines to hold the team accountable in order to accomplish the goal of the meeting.
4. Meet – How to make the most of the conversation in the meeting?
75% of people have not received formal training on how to conduct a meeting, but it is no different than having a good conversation with a group. Here are a few Dos and Don’ts:
Do’s during meetings:
- Stay on topic (follow your agenda)
- Guard against distractions
- Ask productive questions
- Facilitate transformative conflict (not all conflict is bad)
Success is less about having the answers and more about asking the right questions. You have invited your team members for a reason, make sure to get their input for optimal success of the meeting decision(s).
Dont's during meetings:
No side conversations (one conversation rule)
- No multi-tasking (doing other work is a sign of disrespect to the leader and the team)
Our attention spans are challenged more now than ever, so make sure you are guarding from our day-to-day distractions. If you need to host a “no technology meeting”, do it! Then you can get the most out of your meeting time.
5. Follow-up – What action items need to be assigned? How to keep people accountable?
The purpose of meetings is not to simply meet, but to accomplish a task or goal. The ultimate success of a meeting is in the follow up, so make sure you are always accessing your meeting successes:
- Schedule time to follow up (maybe the time you saved from a shorter meeting will give you time to follow up)
- Send meeting recap and action items with due dates (this is ideal through a project management system if you have one)
- Check in to make sure tasks have been completed on or before the due date assigned.
- Call follow-up meeting if needed (last resort)
Meetings are essential to making better decisions, but meetings can also be a time killer and cost more money than the decision to be made. Be careful when scheduling meetings, and remember success is not driven by the number of meetings held but rather your work completed…
First, follow up to this is to audit your meetings.
Your permission to say no has been granted, here are some tips to beginning your new meaningful meeting agendas:
- Cancel standing meetings that add no value
- Challenge meetings that others have scheduled
- Consider or suggest alternatives to meetings
- Cut or recommend shorter length to meetings
- Stop attending low-leverage meetings