How many meetings did you attend last week that lacked a specific agenda, started late, and then ended late? How often did you attend a meeting without knowing why you were even there? How many meetings actually resulted in a new idea or an actionable decision?
With about 11 million business meetings occurring each day, one thing is clear: Meetings are a mainstay of business culture. When they are conducted effectively, they inspire and ignite innovation, and lead to higher-performing teams and a stronger bottom line. When they are ineffective and irrelevant, they plague all of us with the notion that this time together was wasteful, costly, and inefficient.
Too many meetings fail to generate any meaningful return on the investment of our time and energy. And they undermine our productivity. Our meeting-intensive culture forces people to complete their work in the margins of their day–early in the morning and late at night–impacting their health, motivation, and work-life balance.
Something has got to give.
It is time for a meeting revolution.
Start the revolution by questioning the value of each meeting you attend, by preparing for your meetings, and by ensuring that the right people, and only the right people, are invited.
Instead of automatically accepting the next meeting request, pause and consider the meeting’s return on investment for you. Ask yourself:
- Will this meeting assist me in achieving my goals?
- How does the purpose of the meeting align with the company’s strategic priorities?
- What contribution can I make in the meeting?
- Will anyone even notice if I’m not present?
- Will this meeting be energizing, or will it suck the life right out of me?
- Will this meeting be a rehash of the last five meetings I attended?
- Is attending this meeting the highest and best use of my time right now?
Remember, every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else.
As you prepare for your next meeting ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do we need to meet?
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- Is this an informational, decision-making, problem-solving, brainstorming, team-building, or instructional/skill-building meeting? Or a combination of a few of these?
- What is the outcome I want to achieve as a result of this meeting?
- Is there an alternative format I can use to achieve the outcome?
- If a meeting is essential, what is the ideal meeting format to achieve the meeting outcomes—an in-person meeting, a virtual meeting, or a combination of the two?
- Who needs to attend the meeting?
- What information do I need from the attendees?
- What do the attendees need to know or complete in advance of the meeting to achieve the meeting outcome?
- What expectations do I have for the meeting attendees regarding preparation and participation? How will I communicate these expectations?
- What is the ideal length of the meeting to accomplish the stated purpose of the meeting?
Use the answers to these questions to guide you in planning and preparing for your next meeting.
To begin thinking about who to invite to your meeting, start by recognizing that there are four types of meeting attendees: the decision maker, the influencer, the resource person, and the executer.
- The decision maker is the person with the authority to make decisions.
- The influencer has the pull and network within the organization to advocate and popularize meeting decisions and initiatives.
- The resource person has specific knowledge, skills, and expertise needed to inform the decisions and create plans for executing those decisions.
- The executer has the knowledge, skills, resources, and authority to successfully complete the work resulting from the meeting.
An ideal meeting has each of these types of meeting attendees in attendance. Of course, one person can represent multiple roles, while more than one representative of a specific role may be required. For example, you may need three executers to complete a complex project discussed during the meeting.
To determine who really needs to attend the meeting ask yourself:
- What is the meeting outcome?
- Who in the organization must be present to achieve the meeting outcome?
- Who is the decision maker?
- Who is the influencer?
- Who is the resource person?
- Who is the executer?
- If there are people who will not be invited to the meeting but who have been invited to similar meetings in the past, and if so, how will I communicate my rationale for excluding them in this instance?
Without the right people in the meeting, nothing will be accomplished and everyone’s time will be wasted. Invite the right people and only the right people.
A decision maker is not necessary to start a meeting revolution. A meeting revolution starts with one person choosing to do something differently and then communicating with their colleagues and team why they have chosen a different approach.
Thirty-seven percent of employee time is spent in meetings. So, when you choose to lead a meeting revolution, you are not only ensuring that this investment of time and energy generates a meaningful and significant return on investment, but you’re also giving your team time back to do the work they’re good at, the work they’re hired to do, and the work that will grow the business.