Make your meetings more productive – Part 1

All of us sit in too many meetings on a daily basis and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re guilty of hosting one too many meetings. We are all drowning in hours spent on conference calls and stuck in conference rooms.

However, it doesn’t need to be that way. In fact, what I’m about to share with you is probably not “new information”, but as my mother always tells me, reminders never hurt.  

1. Always, always, always have an agenda. We have all heard this but how many of us actually do this? I’ll admit to having skipped this step on a few occasions. But, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. What’s the value in an agenda? It helps the participants know what they need to focus on. If they’re required to answer questions or provide analysis, they can do research in advance. Attendees can plan their own days and work schedules better when they know what’s going to be required of them.

The truth is, sending an agenda is being respectful of your participants’ time and attention, things which are valuable to them and also valuable to you. An agenda is a win-win for everybody.

Bonus Tip: Send it out in advance! Not 5 minutes before the meeting: for a recurring meeting, at least the night before; for a one-off meeting booked well in advance at least a day; for ad-hoc meeting at least 15-30 minutes, if possible.

Productive meetings

 2. “Timeboxing” or scheduling meetings for only as long as you need to have time. Have you ever heard of “Parkinson’s Law”? It’s both a book and shorthand for this idea that ‘work expands to fit the space it’s given’. So, if you schedule an hour meeting, you’ll talk for an hour. If you schedule a two hour meeting…well, we’ve all been there.

So, hand-in-hand with setting an agenda is also making sure you give just enough – neither too much nor too little time – to getting through that agenda. A 15 minute meeting? Perfectly fine. A 30 minute meeting? Probably the best starting point. An hour meeting? Make sure you really need that time and it’s not just a mindless habit that you follow.

Bonus Tip: The secret value to scheduling 15 minute meetings and sticking to that time is that the off-sized meetings tend to give people back those unused 15 minutes as a secret pocket of time (and they’ll be grateful towards you for that) and when you schedule longer meetings, you participants will take you seriously because you’ve taken their time seriously.

3. Start on time. Chances are that if you’re hosting the call, you’re on time for it, and there is probably one or two other people who are there at the same time. Two people make a meeting and so start your meeting, if at all possible, no more than 1-2 minutes after the hour. Why? Because it’s easy for all of us to fall into bad habits: letting other meetings overrun and starting up the permanent cascade of lateness. Everyone’s time is valuable and as meeting hosts and participants we show that by showing up on time and starting on time.

Bonus Tip: The first few meetings may feel awkward – imagine, a meeting for 10 starting with just 2! But, once you start your meetings on time, the attitude will quickly catch on. It’s contagious! And it’s the type of contagious that’s good, because the underlying driver is respect, and when everyone feels more respected that adds to the goodwill and bonhomie in an office – you’ll see!

Putting it into practice starts—
Right now. Today. These are tips that out of the box will start to yield benefits immediately, so why wait? And, stay tuned – tomorrow I’m going to give you 3 more tips that are also incredibly helpful.

Have a good meeting!


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