your new year’s resolution: better meetings

If your meetings stretch out endlessly, don’t end with a clear path forward, or are full of people playing Angry Birds under the conference room table, you might need a meeting intervention!

Here are seven tips to get your meetings back on track.

1. Pause before you send that meeting request.

Before you schedule a meeting, first ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this something that could be just as easily conveyed in a memo or email?
  • Is this a discussion (meaning there will be back-and-forth, which is what a meeting should be for) or just information-sharing (which might point you back to a memo or email)?
  • Who really needs to be there? Are you about to invite people who won’t contribute or benefit from attending?

2. Always, always have an agenda.

If you can’t come up with an agenda, you shouldn’t be holding a meeting. Before calling a meeting, you should be clear on what needs to be discussed and what outcomes you’re looking for.

3. Open the meeting with a clear statement of what you’re there to accomplish.

Announce up-front what you want the take-aways from the meeting to be. You might say at the start, “We have one hour to cover A, B, and C. At the end of this meeting, I’m hoping we’ll have ___.”

4. Stick to the agenda.

If a topic comes up during the meeting that isn’t on the agenda, decide on the spot if it’s truly important enough to displace another topic. Usually it won’t be, and in those cases, you should say, “Let’s put that on the agenda for another time” and move the conversation back to what you’re there to discuss.

5. Be ruthless about starting and ending on time.

If you don’t take the start time seriously, people will start showing up later and later, wasting more and more of the punctual participants’ time. Apply the same rigor to the ending time, too: Set a time limit, announce it at the start, and warn people when you’re five or ten minutes away from wrapping things up.

6. Have a clear “owner” of the meeting.

Whether it’s you or someone else, someone needs to be in charge of keeping the meeting moving, redirecting conversation as needed, teasing out action items, cutting off ramblers, and wrapping it up on time.

7. Create clear next steps.

Nothing is worse than a long meeting that ends with no clear path forward. So at the end of every meeting, make sure everyone is clear on next steps – that the conversation has been translated into action items, and each of those action items has a clear owner.

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase. 

{ 3 comments… read them below }

  1. Erica B*

    these rules are good for any group that has meetings. I am on 2 PTOs, one of which I run. The person in charge of the one I’m not in charge of is clueless and the meetings are always a disaster… She also doesn’t listen at the meetings and after we vote and approve things, she goes behind the groups decision and does other things without telling the rest of us :/ it’s been a tough (school) year- and it’s only December!

    for my job we have meetings ever 2-3 months, as we are spread throughout the state (MA) and we use these meetings to get on the same page regarding our project and the clients. We don’t have an agenda on paper, but we do the same things each time, so for us it’s not necessary.

  2. Harry*

    Great tips! I can also contribute one more. Don’t have a meeting for the sake of having a meeting! If you have nothing to say and it happens to be the day for your weekly meeting, cancel it! An hour gained for everyone. Everyone wins and no one has to suffer through a meaningless meeting.

  3. MistyMountainHop*

    Thank you! My boss left a couple of months ago and I’ve found myself in a position to conduct more and more meetings. These tips are really simple but great, and I kept them in mind during my team meeting today which helped me get through the really important information within the thirty minutes I had allotted. This also gives me a criteria by which to judge which meetings I’LL be attending. Still love your blog oh so much. Happy Holidays.

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