Meetings That Work

“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 (co-founder of Asana)

Far too many meetings bite (trying to use less colorful language).

We’ve talked about Daily Meetings, Weekly Meetings, Quarterly and Annual Meetings.

Today, we are going to wrap up this topic with the basics of what makes a great meeting – no matter what type of meeting it is.

I love this image. It is meant to help children self-check their actions during a physical education class, but it is perfect for our discussion on proper meeting behavior. The question is excellent.

“Are your actions helping or hurting the learning of others right now?”

That is the question that everyone in a meeting should use to guide their behavior in meetings.

It is common courtesy to others, but everyone knows that courtesy is not that common these days!

What are the basics of courtesy in meetings? Below are the behaviors that we have found to make for great meetings that work:

  1. Start on Time – preferably an odd time to get people’s attention. Plan the meeting to start at 12:07 and start at exactly that time. We all know what time it is these days. Our smart phones keep track of that for us (no “my watch stopped” excuses anymore!). Waiting on a late participant is disrespectful to those who made the effort to get there on time. If you start the habit of waiting on one person, you will soon be waiting on everyone!
  2. No Distractions – Cell phones, computers, etc. The meeting is for a purpose and only that purpose. If it is worth it for you to attend, then pay attention. Doing other things is distracting to others and is “hurting the learning of others” like our sign above says!
  3. Purpose – Every meeting has a purpose. If it doesn’t or if the purpose could have been handled without a meeting, then don’t have a meeting! A great meeting starts with objectives and ends with conclusions to those objections.
  4. It Happens – It doesn’t matter if it is a daily or weekly meeting. If it is scheduled, it must happen. Moving meetings for people’s emergencies just influences everyone to continue to schedule over the meetings. Your scheduled meeting times are your “rocks” in the stream of work. Quit rescheduling them. Have the meeting and people who couldn’t make it can read the minutes.
  5. Record It – If a meeting is worth having, it is worth recording the outputs. What was achieved, who was there, what are the next actions and who is responsible?
  6. Agenda – Every meeting must start with a timed agenda. The agenda lets participants decide if they should be attending. A timed agenda keeps you on topic. Nothing is worse than a meeting that goes longer than it was planned. If you are leading a meeting, keep your word. Start on time and end on time. It is really that important.
  7. Don’t Have the Meeting – This is my last and favorite idea for great meetings. Meetings that never happen! Ask yourself and your team if the objectives can be met any other way than a meeting. Sometimes meetings are more effective than strings of email, but a meeting doesn’t have to be in person. Meeting via a call and an online screen share (like – its free!) will cut your meeting time in HALF. Try it. Online meetings are at least 50% more productive.

Meetings are necessary and in person meetings have their place in every organization. Bad meetings make for bad workplaces.

Make your meetings great and watch performance (and morale) skyrocket in your organization!

What about you? Any great meeting tools/ideas that you use?

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