It seems my life is just one meeting after another these days so I have been thinking about what makes are a good meeting.

  1. Have an agenda. If I am the organizer of a meeting I always put together an agenda. That doesn’t mean it has to be a formal typed list given to every participant, but it does mean you have a plan for the topics of the meeting. Even when I am have a one-on-one session with my boss, I take the time to write-down a list of items I want to discuss. Having that agenda serves two purposes. One is to make sure you cover everything that needs to be covered and the second is to use it as a tool to keep you on track and on time. If a topic is taking too much time, maybe it needs to be further researched outside of the meeting or it needs a separate meeting with different participants. Either way, your agenda will serve as a great guide to accomplishing something during a meeting.
  2. Have an objective. If the objective of the meeting to make a specific decision, to get approval for something, or to just provide a progress report? If you know what the objective of the meeting is going in, you have a much better shot at actually accomplishing something and even more important, know when to end the meeting. Meetings without objectives tend to just fill the full time allocated to the meeting. Meetings with objectives finish early more often than not and it’s amazing how positive people feel about a meeting when they get out fifteen minutes early.
  3. End with a summary of follow-up responsibilities. While some rare meetings will end with nothing more to do, most meetings end with a list of follow-up tasks. It is very important to list out those tasks, and who is responsible for delivering on them, before the meeting is allowed to end. If this means cutting the discussion short so the last five minutes can be used to allocate tasks, so be it. The biggest failure of meetings is not the meetings themselves, but lack of productivity between meetings. By spending the last couple of minutes listing the tasks and who is responsible, the between meeting productivity will improve and there will be a lot less questions about who was responsible for what.

I know some people think all meetings are a waste of time. I disagree with that. Meetings serve a very important purpose. They are only a waste of time when they are poorly run and organized. If more people used the tips above, maybe more people would think meetings are useful.

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