Hacks to make your meetings more effective

How to transform your meetings

Meetings are either the most effective way of unleashing creative energy, or the most frustrating, time-wasting experience ever inflicted upon someone. In fact, more than 11 million business meetings will take place in the US today—if you’re attending or conducting one of them, here’s some ideas on how to make your meetings more effective and productive.

Double preparation time and cut meeting time in half

The best way to cut meeting time is to prepare effectively. If you’re meeting to problem solve, get the problems as clearly in mind as you can, and put them in writing. When the problems are defined, work up every possible solution you can for each of them.

Always use a written agenda

An agenda is a road map that will keep your meeting on course. Distribute the agenda beforehand. The agenda should be constantly visible throughout the meeting—once attendees lose sight of the road map, they lose their way. Tailor the meeting to the agenda. Rather than listing agenda items as topics, state them as questions to stimulate thinking and creativity.

Meetings are at the heart of an effective organization; when done right, each meeting is an opportunity to clarify issues, set new directions, sharpen focus, create alignment, and move objectives forward.

Commit to starting and ending times

Hold to them, or let out early. Don’t reward latecomer and punish the prompt.

Relentlessly focus on outcomes

Every meeting should drive toward a tangible result. End the meeting as soon as you’ve got the outcome you came for.

Only the people who need to be there should attend

In addition to preparing an agenda, write down the names of those who should be in attendance for each agenda item.

Close the lid

Ask that everyone close their laptops and put away phones. Shutting down devices lets our brains open up.

Try holding standing up meetings

It’s healthier, and keeps attendees in focus. Stand up meetings aren’t just of agile software times anymore, brief stand up meetings are becoming the standard at most companies.

How do you cut meeting time when you’re not in charge and leaving might be awkward? Here are some ideas on how to deal with this situation.

Ask this question

“Is there any further contribution I can make to this meeting?” This puts the meeting leader on the spot gracefully. If there’s nothing else, you can leave; if there is, you should stay.

Choose where you sit

Sit at the back of the room or closest to the exit and slip out when the meeting is no longer productive for you.

Use discretion and give the “I” message

In a private setting, tell your boss: “I’m attending meetings I think I don’t need to attend. I’m losing a good deal of time in these meetings when I could be producing more significant results for you. I’d feel greatly relieved if we could get this matter resolved.”