Tips for Great MeetingsThat’s right, my last post was about how much meetings suck (costs). So why am I writing about great meetings now? Because meetings are still necessary and can be a great use of time, for the right purpose and with the right structure. For all we complain about them, meetings still serve many purposes. There are the obvious benefits:

Obvious Meeting Benefits

1. Alignment: Rather than spending countless hours reading through email chains and clarifying meaning, meetings are often the most effective means to ensure alignment.

2. Brainstorming: When a solution is not readily available or you need innovative concepts, a brainstorming meeting may be just what the doctor ordered.

3. Education: When the education of individuals is necessary, meetings are often the best solution. This is not the same as a class, but more targeted – such as when educating a group on current financial challenges.

In addition, there are some less obvious benefits for meetings:

Hidden Meeting Benefits

1. Socializing: One of the most common complaints of meetings is unnecessary banter that wastes everyone’s time. I agree. However, the brief socializing before or after the defined meeting time can be an important factor in team building and employee engagement.

2. Awareness: Issues that are not formally relayed in written communications have a tendency be uncovered during meetings. The back-and-forth dialogue may create awareness to risks and issues otherwise not defined.

3. Development: Professional development often occurs in meetings. As individuals are challenged to speak up to their peers and even superiors, team members develop communication skills, character and quick thinking.

So, if meetings suck a lot of money and time, how can you make your meetings great? The key is awareness of the issues that typically suck money, time and morale: wasted time, unnecessary travel, excessive reporting and so on. Then, do your best to avoid these issues.

Tips for a Great Meeting

1. Keep it Short Stupid: A variation on Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) – Keep It Short! Calendar software often defaults to 30 minutes or an hour. Don’t just take the default – consider how much time the discussion should take, then only request the necessary time. I love 15 minute meetings.

2. Agenda: Common sense is not so common. Those that lack it often lack agendas too. Meetings should include a list of items to enable others to prepare and set expectations. These do not have to be lengthy or detailed – a brief list of topics goes a long way in preparation and alignment.

3. Accountability: Ensure accountability and expectations. I do this by capturing action items in bold in meeting notes, along with the accountable person. For example: AI: Write post for the benefits and importance of meetings (BEN).

4. Go Virtual: Studies suggest productivity is reduced by as much as 40% when switching between activities. If the meeting is short, why add 15 to 30 minutes onto it by making attendees lock their PC, walk (or worse, drive) to the meeting room, wait for others to attend and then reset themselves when they get back? Try a teleconference and / or web session instead.

5. Standing Room Only: I love this idea – insist on your attendees standing throughout the meeting – especially on routine check-ins. I admit, I rarely make others stand. However, I do find that standing myself – especially on conference calls, keeps my own focus on brevity and helps me drive the meeting to conclusion quickly.

Question: What other advice do you have for great meetings?