Nobody likes meetings.
One solution for this problem is to have fewer meetings, or to skip meetings by deferring decision-making to lengthy, hard-to-follow email threads (please don’t do that). A better solution is to try and give meetings better structure.
Here are 7 rules for better meetings.
1. Every meeting needs an owner
The meeting owner is in charge of keeping the meeting structured and productive, and keeping track of time.
2. Keep meetings as small as possible
Smaller meetings go more smoothly and more quickly than bigger meetings. Attending a meeting also means someone is pulled away from the work they’re doing. The less people in a meeting, the less people being pulled off task.
Only invite the people you need. Let people know if they’re optional. Let people know if they’re not.
3. Set an agenda and a goal for each meeting.
An agenda and goal should be defined prior to the meeting, and reviewed briefly at the start of the meeting.
Everyone should be clear on what the purpose and structure of the meeting is.
If there’s a meeting invite, include the agenda and goals in the invite, and include any documentation you expect people to have reviewed prior to the meeting.
4. One conversation at a time
A meeting is only effective if it’s a single conversation that everyone is involved in. If side conversations start during a meeting, the meeting owner has the right to ask that they stop.
5. Don’t interrupt your peers
If someone is speaking, don’t cut them off.
If you accidentally cut someone off, apologize and allow them to continue talking.
6. Don’t let meetings run long
The meeting owner’s job is to make sure the meeting stays on schedule, and lets out on time. Give folks a 5 or 10-minute warning so the meeting can wrap up in a timely manner. When meetings run long, it makes people late for other meetings, and also makes them grumpy.
If the meeting satisfies its goals ahead of schedule, celebrate that fact. Short meetings are the best meetings.
7. Confirm conclusions and actionable items before ending the meeting
At the end of a meeting, the meeting owner should go over what the meeting’s conclusions were, to ensure everyone is on the same page. Don’t let folks leave before reviewing what happened in the meeting.
If there are any actionable items coming out of the meeting, these should be confirmed as well.
If the goal of the meeting was not reached, one of the actionable items should address that problem, most likely with another meeting.
Once the meeting’s let out, the meeting owner should also send an email to all attendees reviewing the conclusions and actionable items. An email creates a permanent record of the decisions you made, and next related tasks.