Running effective meetings is the foundation of running an effective organization. Ineffective meetings waste resources, decrease job satisfaction, and slow down decision-making. So why are meetings a pain point for so many organizations?

Time management, organization, and clear communication are the root causes of ineffective meetings. The first step is the planning process; here are four questions to ask yourself in preparation for your next meeting: 

  1. What is the intention and goal of the meeting? 

The first step to maximizing meeting productivity is setting intentions and goals and communicating this with all attendees. Ask yourself what the end state is and what value will come from the meeting. 

Understanding the meeting’s intended value will help you classify it. For example, is it informative or decisive? Make this classification clear to attendees. 

Set your intentions early and often, and over-communicate before the meeting begins.  

  • What is the most influential meeting format, and why?

Consider the benefits and drawbacks of a virtual versus in-person meeting. Does the format align with achieving the meeting’s goal? If your team is hybrid, be strategic with in-person meetings and use them to signal the importance of collaboration. Don’t bog your team down with meeting fatigue – in person or virtual. 

Can tools like chat forums or email be utilized to reach a decision rather than blocking time on people’s calendars for a meeting? Netflix has limited the duration of meetings to a maximum of 30 minutes. It requires that meetings involving one-way information sharing be canceled in favor of other mechanisms like a memo, podcast, or vlog.

  • What information needs to be disseminated before the meeting?

Setting up for a meeting is crucial. Ensure everyone knows what role they need to play during the conference—request information before the meeting to streamline discussions. 

Create tasks, owners, and timelines during the meeting. Assign someone to take minutes and capture after-meeting tasks. Before the meeting concludes, summarize tasks to ensure everyone understands and acknowledges their roles after the meeting. 

Assertive communication is critical to setting up and following up on an effective meeting. Use tags such as “Response Required” or “ATTN Required” to signal importance. Due to the high volume, emails are highly susceptible to being skimmed or ignored.

  • Who needs to be involved? 

Don’t waste people’s time if they do not have a clear role in the meeting. Leader’s actions will trickle down into the organization, sometimes causing inefficiencies. Be careful not to accept every meeting added to your calendar unless you can contribute meaningfully. 

A McKinsey survey found that 61 percent of executives said that at least half the time they spent making decisions—much of it indeed spent in meetings—was ineffective. Only 37 percent of respondents said their organization’s decisions were timely and quality.

Quantify the time and value of the meeting. For example, multiply the number of attendees by the time allocated and the meeting frequency. Determine an estimated cost of the meeting and ensure that it is justified for your organization’s goals and bottom line. 

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Next time you plan a meeting, consider these four questions. A good meeting will address key areas for discussion, motivate individuals, and create strategies for your team’s success.  

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