Like email, meetings can be real work, but they are most often not. Meetings are only useful in three scenarios: when you need collective brainpower, for goal alignment, and for building relationships.
Practical examples of when meetings tend to be useful include:
- outlining a strategy,
- brainstorming ideas,
- a sales meeting,
- meetings for keeping the team dynamics (like daily stand-ups)
- and similar.
For all other things, you don’t really need a meeting, you can solve things in better and faster ways.
Research shows that more than 50% of meetings are unnecessary. People do it to socialize, feel important, share opinion, avoid decision making, and so on.
Not to mention, you usually have to commute to a meeting destination, make small talk with all the participants, everybody is on their phones during the meeting, and so on. Meetings really can get in the way of you doing real work.
Best tips for productive meetings
Here’s what to do when it comes to meetings. First, become aware that sooner or later everybody wants to have meetings in everyday business interaction. When a problem or some issue occurs, the first idea people get is to call a meeting.
It’s like a reflex, calling a meeting whenever possible. Thus, learn to ask yourself if the meeting is really necessary, or you can solve the problem in some other, more efficient way.
When people ask you to have a meeting, reply with something like: “let’s solve the problem immediately on the phone or I’ll find a solution and call you back, because I really care about you as a client. There’s no meeting necessary.” And on your side, definitely initiate as few meetings as possible.
If you want to really minimize the meetings, have stand-up or walking meetings. Invite people to take a walk with you in the nearby park to tackle the problem.
Most people will immediately agree that you can solve the thing without having a meeting at all. And if people agree with your walking meeting suggestion, you’ll do something good for the body while having a meeting. Two birds killed with one stone.
Minimize logistics and number of attendees
Following this approach will definitely help you minimize meetings. Nevertheless, you will still be left with some meetings. So, let’s look at the main ideas on how to manage the meetings that are really necessary. First, minimize the logistics, motion and invite the fewest possible people to the meeting.
The fewer people are involved, the faster the meeting will go.
Don’t invite everyone, just because you think they should be there. Then, organize meetings by location and time. The best way to kill a productive day is to schedule one meeting before noon and one afterwards. You know how your day goes then.
Morning coffee, a meeting, email, lunch, a meeting, email, end of the working day and nothing done.
Meeting agenda, no tech and clear action steps
The next important thing is to have a clear objective for every meeting. Make sure everybody knows what the goal of the meeting is. Write it down and encourage people not to stray off in the debate.
End the meeting with action steps and always do the follow‑up to make sure that people delivered their commitments. And by far the most important thing is to ban all technology during a meeting.
I’m often shocked at how meetings are not only a big waste of time, but a disrespectful experience to all the people involved. Ten people gather in a meeting room, everybody is on their laptop or phone, one person speaks and nobody else listens and that’s it.
No real connection, no real work done, no solutions or commitments. A disaster. So, make sure that before the meeting begins, you nicely ask all the people involved to close their laptop, turn off phone notifications, and follow along the meeting agenda.