Meetings are so ubiquitous that many professionals feel burdened by them. They chop up the day into little tiny segments and create scheduling challenges for attendees. However, meetings can be productive. The emphasis here is on “can.”
On their own, meetings tend to be disorganized, late to start, prone to rambling, and severely limited in their ability to produce real results. A meeting should be a place where people plan to accomplish very specific tasks. Unfortunately, they often end up being a place where people talk about generic steps that could be taken to possibly accomplish something.
The only way to make meetings more productive is to turn this lackadaisical way of viewing meetings on its head. Meetings must become less like university lecture halls where students are given theoretical knowledge that they can use some day in the future.
Instead, they need to become more like a college football locker room right before a game, where the coach provides very specific instructions for each group of players and the athletes immediately go out and follow through on the game plan.
Here are some granular techniques and tangible strategies you can use to ensure your business meetings are more productive:
Use the “Two Pizza” Rule.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a policy within his companies that’s designed to limit the number of people in attendance at any one meeting. It’s called the “Two Pizza Rule.” The number of people attending a meeting should be kept to a reasonable amount – such that two pizzas could easily feed the group. (In other words, only invite essential assets to meetings. Others can be briefed after the meeting and brought up to speed.)
Set an Agenda.
Good meetings don’t just happen – they’re the result of careful planning. This is why the most important part of any meeting occurs before the meeting is actually held. It takes place when you develop the meeting agenda.
A meeting agenda sets a clear purpose, desired outcomes, and a step-by-step strategy for the meeting so the purpose and goals are respected by the group.
Take Meeting Minutes.
Sometimes meetings are productive, but then everyone leaves the room and the information discussed gets forgotten about or lost. This is why it’s important to always have someone take meeting minutes.
Meeting minutes should include the agenda, date and time, list of participants, discussions and updates from previous meetings, and decisions and achievements.
Remember Parkinson’s Law.
Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This is, in a nutshell, the essence of Parkinson’s Law.
Here’s what it means within the context of meetings: If you give your team a 60-minute meeting to discuss the upcoming social media campaign, they’ll take 60 minutes to do it. But if you only give them 30 minutes, they’ll complete it in half the time.
Use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage. Schedule shorter meetings and watch as your employees become more productive with the time they have.
Use Hard Starts and Hard Stops.
People have an expectation that meetings will start late and run late. This causes them to show up late and remain disengaged. Set the tone for meetings by always using hard starts and hard stops. This means starting precisely when you say you will (and closing the door to the meeting room to indicate you’ve begun). And if your meeting is planned to end at 2 p.m., you should close the meeting as soon as the 2 o’clock hour arrives. Once people realize that you’re serious about meeting times, they’ll get serious too.
Create Next Steps.
Too many meetings end in with vague expectations. People tend to assume someone else will take care of something (or they figure they’ll wait until the next meeting to discuss what needs to be done).
Make sure every meeting ends with five minutes of “next-step” assignments. Create a list of action items and assign them to the responsible parties (with precise deadlines).
Transform Your Meetings.
Meetings don’t have to be a massive waste of time. While there’s something to be said for cutting back on the number of meetings you have – simply transforming them into more productive slices of time will revolutionize the way your business operates.
Give these techniques a try and track the results. You’re going to like what you find.