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Do You Really Need to Hold That Meeting?

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It’s the “M” word that everyone hates—meetings. There are good meetings and there are bad meetings. And of course, there are really, really bad meetings. How do we ensure all of our meetings meet our needs?

We’ve all been in bad meetings. They go on forever never getting to the point, and you leave wondering why you were ever present. On the other hand, effective meetings leave you energized and feeling that you’ve really accomplished something. What’s the difference?


© Flickr user dennis crowley

According to results of a survey conducted by Microsoft, employees spend 5.6 hours each week in meetings and 71% of respondents felt meetings weren’t productive. That’s bad news, and what’s worse is that this isn’t the only study reporting that meetings are widely disliked.

It’s a big problem. So how do great leaders make sure we have great meetings? It boils down to three things:

1. They achieve the meeting’s objective

2. They take up a minimum amount of time

3. They leave participants feeling that a good process has been followed.

Meetings get a bad rap, and deservedly so – most are disorganized and distracted. But they can be a critical tool for getting your team on the same page. –Justin Rosenstein

The next time, before you schedule a meeting, follow these 4 steps:

Step 1: Ask yourself, “Do I really need to hold this meeting?”

Determine if you can accomplish what needs to be done in talking with a key person instead of pulling people into a meeting; can you meet virtually?

Or if you just want the latest information on active projects, you may be able to get it via email or project tracking system. Remember, a status update meeting is usually not a good meeting.

Step 2: Ask yourself, “Why do I want to hold this meeting?”

What’s the purpose of the meeting? Is it a daily check-in, staff meeting, ad hoc meeting, or a quarterly meeting? What objectives need to be accomplished? Also determine who really needs to attend, the length of the meeting, and the time it takes everyone to prepare.

Usually the why question is about getting or communicating information, not about making decisions or brainstorming with your team. If the “why” question is not well-answered by taking up people’s direct time with a meeting, don’t have the meeting!

Step 3: Run the Numbers

Time is so valuable, so figure out how much the meeting is going to cost. Take a year’s salary for 1 person & divide it by the number of hours worked to determine the hourly wage. Do that for everyone involved–you may be amazed. Then shorten the length allowed for your meeting.

By the way: you don’t have to make every meeting last an hour. You can have 30 minute meetings or fifteen minute meetings. And it’s okay to end early if you finish early!

Step 4: If you still think you need to schedule a meeting, create a detailed agenda

The time to write the agenda is well before you announce the meeting and request time on people’s calendars. This should include the meeting’s objective, attendees, length of time, topics, decisions that need to be made, and prep work for attendees to complete prior to their arrival.

Don’t forget to include in your plan what happens after the meeting is over! Too many meetings have no follow-up steps, which means they weren’t that useful in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, you need to follow your agenda and timeline. Make sure you start and end on time. Also, ensure that someone documents the decisions, tasks, and deadlines decided during the meeting.

Meetings can be very valuable and productive, but they often aren’t. To ensure they are worth it: before you schedule your next meeting, determine if it’s really necessary.

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Cindy Allen-Stuckey

Cindy Allen-Stuckey

Cindy Allen-Stuckey, CEO and founder of Making Performance Matter, collaborates with organizations to convert their strategy into action. She takes global organizations to the next level by developing customized "people strategies" that bring their business strategy to life and enabling them to optimally execute it.