I hate meetings. There, I said it. It’s out there. Mostly I hate meetings because the vast majority are a simple and utter waste of everyone’s time. In companies across the country and around the world, employees attend 62 meetings per month and at least half of those meetings are considered “time wasted.” Employees spend hours and hours in meeting rooms talking and discussing without a clear objective. Nobody knows why they are there, what they are supposed to do and what should happen after the meeting – except to have yet another meeting.

Meetings are currently one of the most unproductive elements of our day but they don’t have to be. With some simple tweaks and some discipline, meetings can be quite efficient and effective and actually even quite satisfying.  Here’s how you can make your meetings work again:

  • Schedule meetings in advance and think critically about the amount of time that’s needed. All meetings do not need to be an hour. Most can be handled in 15-30 minutes.
  • Be thoughtful about who is invited to attend and what their specific role is in the meeting. Try hard to limit the number of attendees and remember you only need to invite one person to represent each department or group.
  • Set a clear objective for the meeting. Identify and communicate the specific goal and expected outcome of the meeting.
  • Outline an agenda including topics with time allocations and send it to meeting participants in advance so they are prepared.
  • Start meetings on time and end 5-10 minutes early to allow people to regroup and get to their next meeting on time.
  • Identify a record keeper to take notes, document decisions and record action items which should be assigned to specific people with deadlines.
  • Ask participants to put away their phones and laptops for the duration of the meeting or if they have something more pressing to take care of they should feel free to leave the meeting and catch up through the meeting notes.
  • Ensure the discussion and all comments are on topic and relevant. If other topics arise, suggest scheduling a separate time to discuss that and encourage everyone to get back to the topic at hand by reminding them of the objective.
  • As soon as the meeting ends, add any action items you may have been assigned to your to-do list so you don’t forget about them.
  • Send meeting notes to meeting participants within 24 hours of the meeting including key decisions, action items and next steps.

TRY THIS OUT: Before you schedule your next meeting, stop and review this list. Pick three of these things to implement and see how it works and what reaction you get. Keep what works and throw out what doesn’t. Then pick three more to test for your next meeting. You can be a leader in your organization by leading effective meetings.

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