7 tips for more effective, efficient meetings

While I was co-creating with the South African games developer RetroEpic, I compiled a list of simple tips to have better meetings. I know lots of organizations struggle with this issue, so sharing these tips might help some. If you like your meetings long and ineffective, stop reading here… If you want to make the most of your (and your teams’) time, try one or more of these 7 tips…

Business teamworking at meeting table.

1) Don’t Meet

Avoid a meeting if the same information could be covered in a memo, e-mail or brief report. One of the keys to having more effective meetings is differentiating between the need for one-way information dissemination and two-way information sharing. To disseminate information you can use a variety of other communication media, such as sending an e-mail or posting the information on your company’s intranet. If you want to be certain you have delivered the right message, you can schedule a meeting to simply answer questions about the information you have sent. By remembering to ask yourself, “Is a meeting the best way to handle this?” you’ll cut down on wasted meeting time and restore your group’s belief that the meetings they attend are necessary.

2) Adjust the agenda to the objectives

Spend twice as much time on the agenda as you normally would. Set objectives for the meeting. The more concrete your objectives, the more focused your agenda will be. Consult with another team member if you need to; a little extra time at the front end will save more time at the back end.

3) Choose the right attendees

Spend twice as much time on the attendee list as you normally would. Ask yourself, carefully: Do all of these people really need to attend? Or could some of them just receive a brief email summary or quick call afterward? If you can reduce a half-hour meeting list by, say, four people whose presence isn’t essential, that’s two hours of productive time effortlessly returned to the company.

4) Set a time frame

Schedule the meeting for the half the time you originally intended to. Meetings are like accordions – they stretch naturally to fill the allotted space. If you schedule a meeting for an hour, you’ll probably take the whole time, even if a fair amount consists of amiable, random off-topic conversation. In all likelihood if you schedule that same meeting for 30 minutes, you’ll do what you need to in the tighter time period. When I was in the corporate world I routinely halved meeting times and was seldom disappointed. Try two-hour meetings at one hour, one hour meetings at 30 minutes, and 30 minute meetings at 15. My strong suspicion is they’ll work out fine.

5) Insist on a prompt start

Don’t start 1 second late. Way too much time is wasted on late arrivals. It used to make me crazy that certain people would be habitually late, thus regularly wasting some 5 to 10 minutes for the entire group – and penalizing the punctual. The simple solution? Don’t wait for latecomers. Start the instant you’re scheduled to. Soon enough people will get the idea… no one likes to be embarrassed by straggling in during the middle of a cogent discussion. Do this a few times and you’ll develop a reputation for promptness. I knew numerous (though not enough) managers who had super-punctual reputations and they were respected for it.

6) Reinforce efficiency

Consider – if it’s appropriate for your business needs – holding a stand-up meeting. There’s actually intriguing research showing that stand-up meetings can be more efficient. In one study, groups that were standing took roughly one-third less time to make decisions than those who were seated… with no loss in the quality of decisions. For logistical reasons, stand-up meetings aren’t always practical, but they’re worth considering.

7) Follow up

It’s quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with very different interpretations of what went on. To reduce this risk, email a memo highlighting what was accomplished to all who attended within 24 hours after the meeting. Document the responsibilities given, tasks delegated, and any assigned deadlines. That way, everyone will be on the same page.

Source: thanks to Forbes and several other articles.