The running joke on us consultants goes something like this: “You consultants must get bonuses for every meeting you set up!” Admittedly, we do often require many meetings, quite possibly an insane number. However, meetings are an essential part of any effective workplace collaboration. The question, then, isn’t how to get rid of ALL meetings, but rather how to make them more efficient and scaling back when appropriate. MATTER DISTILL, REDUCE “Is the meeting absolutely necessary? Is there a better format to conduct this discussion? Can we reduce the frequency of these meetings?” Be protective of your own time and be protective of others’ time. A brief email update with specific next steps can often move most items forward. See also this month’s book review on “The One Thing” under the heading “Subtraction.” TRIM ATTENDEES I’m quite certain it was a rule before Jeff Bezos made it famous, but the one- or two-pizza rule (invite only numbers that one or two pizzas can feed) is a great starting point for the maximum attendee size of meetings. Only invite the essential HOW TO MAKE YOUR MEETINGS Here are our team’s favorite ways to do that:
attendees and provide relief to others by inviting them as optional and explaining in the invite that a good set of notes will be sent out post-meeting. Trust me, they won’t be offended. Present a back- of-the-napkin cost per meeting when sizes get too large. BEGIN WITH BIG IDEAS Really, this rule applies to every form of communication other than a formal British tea party. Ask yourself, “What does a successful meeting look like? What are the one or two items I need to walk away with at this meeting’s conclusion?” Back into your agenda with big ideas and let the smaller items drop off or move into the “speed round,” the final five minutes of the agenda. And by the way, front-loading your meaty topics usually has a good track record for getting people to start showing up to your meetings on time. ENGAGE YOUR ATTENDEES There is likely nothing better to drive engagement than an old-fashioned task list. An action plan read-through before each meeting with the directly responsible individual’s name next to a task is powerful, decentralized, and motivating. It amazes
me how many meetings are held without a fast run-through of captured actions and a review of prior actions. Get folks to show up and on time — get creative with it. A prior manager of mine used a penalty jar to collect from the habitually tardy. The “7-minute rule” also can work: Start the meeting after seven minutes regardless of who is present. If a quorum doesn’t exist, the meeting gets adjourned. Engagement might be the single-most important aspect of efficient, productive meetings. A meeting should be just that. If you’re not expecting collaboration, don’t call it a meeting. Tell your staff you’re giving a presentation and they’ll come ready to take notes. But if you want to actually have a meeting, every participant should come ready and willing to engage with the ideas on the table.
See you in Room 3B!
Kyle J . Heppenstall Founder, Managing Director
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