It’s easy to hate meetings, and believe that they are all a waste of time. Many (most?) meetings are poorly organized and inadequately serve their purpose . But not every meeting is bad. One measure I use is: a good meeting is one that enables a group of folks to reach necessary alignment on a topic.
To help foster good meetings I use three general principles:
- Have a clear agenda that attendees can read ahead of time.
- Have a facilitator who can keep the meeting on topic.
- Leave time for a conclusion in the last couple of minutes.
Ensure that the meetings you hold or attend have clear agenda that attendees can read ahead of time. They need to be able to read this far enough in advance to think about the topics. A large or vague agenda is a warning sign of a meeting that will not succeed. Good meetings are focused, and people come prepared.
Every meeting needs an empowered facilitator who can keep the meeting on topic and on time. If senior folks, for example, are allowed ignore the facilitator your meetings will wander and run out of time. Note that the facilitator should exercise good discretion and manners in allowing for quick, valuable sidetracks. Good meetings end on time. Great meetings end early, because all of the relevant topics have been usefully covered, and the facilitator ends the gathering.
Useful meetings tend to have useful conclusions. For instance, any action items (tasks that derive from the meeting) should be discussed and owned before the end of the meeting. There may be a need to schedule follow-up meetings. Perhaps the meeting summary needs to be created. The meeting facilitator needs to ensure that adequate time is left for this or any other needed conclusion. For a single hour meetings I will generally reserve the last five minutes for this sort of wrap up.
Note that there are plenty of other resources available online and elsewhere that can help you determine how to make your meetings useful. These are my top tips, but not the only ideas out there. Stop wasting your time and figure out how to hold a good meeting!