Here’s some tips from 30 years of being in, chairing, and making meetings useful. I haven’t always run good meetings, but I get easily frustrated with in-efficiencies, so I’ve picked up a couple of things that work for me over the years:
Have a Reason
If you can’t think of why you’re having the meeting , or what you want to get out of it, then don’ t have it.
Hint: Showing everybody who’s boss by making them come to a meeting held by you doesn’t count as a reason.
Have an Agenda
Which should line up with your reason to have the meeting, and helps you decide whom to invite. An agenda is not just a list of talking points. It is:
- a list of topics,
- the time you plan to spend on each one,
- who the champion / presenter for each agenda item is, and
- in the order you’re going to discuss them
Hint: You can arrange your agenda in a couple of different ways (and these are not the only options):
- go from involving the most people (general announcements kind of thing) down to the least (specific discussions involving limited people), and let others leave the meeting early
- have “guests” or subject matter experts come in at specific times (like for a training)
- I like to arrange my meetings in priority order so that the most important discussion happen and decisions get made first if we do run out of time
Invite the Right People
By “right” I mean people who can contribute the to discussion and decision-making, and have a proven track record (as far as you can) of delivering what they promise. Having deadwood (people who can’t or don’t contribute) is a waste of your time and company resources.
Hint: If it’s a regular or standing meeting, don’t be afraid to prune the invite list every once in a while. They tend to grow over time for some reason. Most meetings are effective for active and engaged decision-making when there are fewer than eight people involved.
Corollary: Don’t be afraid to prune your own calendar once in a while either. If you’re attending meetings just to be in the loop, consider just getting the meeting notes instead.
Start on Time, End on Time
The best way I know to start and end meetings on time is to actually just start and end them on time. No matter who is there or isn’t there. And don’t go back to review things for late comers. Being late for your next meeting because your last meeting went long is a self-fulfilling, self-damaging habit that should and can be broken.
Hint: If you do have to go long, and sometimes this is unavoidable, stop before the scheduled end time and ask if everybody is okay with going late. Getting consent is an acceptable way of handling this situation. Of course, if not everybody that needs to can stay, you should respect this and find a different way (like scheduling a follow-up meeting) to handle it.