How To Have a Productive Meeting

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who lead meetings, and those who dread them. 

Maybe that’s a stretch, but the truth is that most of us have sat through our fair share of meetings, wondering how we’re going to snag another cookie off the refreshment table (if we’re lucky) and how soon happy hour is starting (if we’re not).

The problem with most meetings is that they aren’t productive. They’re often waste our time and fail to accomplish anything efficiently. 

But having a productive meeting is actually easier than our experience would seem to let on.

Whether it’s an office meeting for work, a board meeting of a charity, or a family meeting about future plans and challenges, these simple tips can help you have the most productive meeting possible.

||ONE||  Establish the goal(s) of the meeting. Be very clear to everyone involved why this meeting is happening. Do you want everyone to be informed about something new? Do you want to train people? Do you want to have a brainstorming session? Too often meetings are held without any clear goals, or with mixed goals. Some want to connect personally, while others simply want to convey information. Clear goals should appear at the top of the agenda, which outlines the steps needed to achieve them.

||TWO|| Verify that a meeting is actually the best way to achieve your goal. There’s nothing worse than sitting through a 3 hour meeting when a simple 5 minute conversation or quick email would achieve the same thing. Recognize that the “cost” of a meeting is not only the time spent planning for or in the meeting, but also the time lost for those attending. Interrupting creative or intensive analytical work costs a lot for the person who has to find his place again, remember what he was doing, and try to re-enter a focused state of mind after having to be attentive to something entirely different.

||THREE|| Set specific outcomes for the meeting and communicate them to everyone. “By the end of the meeting, all parties will be trained in our new method of data processing.” “By the end of the meeting we will have 3 new ideas to put forward.” “By the end of the meeting, we will have evaluated which of the 2 candidates to hire.” Setting specific outcomes ensures focus and impedes getting sidetracked.

||FOUR|| Make sure every person in attendance knows exactly why they have been invited. How often are people invited to meetings just to be “looped in” to what is happening? How often are meetings hijacked by someone who likes to talk but has no real stake in the outcome? Everyone in attendance should know what is expected of them. Each person should be crucial to the meeting, and the meeting should be crucial to them. 

With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a third category of people: those who thrive on productive meetings.