Let’s face it: no one loves meetings. They often take up a lot of time, they can completely clog our schedules, and attendees often fail to see the value in them. But meetings have the potential to be incredibly productive and valuable if we approach them correctly and set expectations with our teams. Here are a few tips on making sure your meetings are as productive as they can be.
Send Out the Agenda Beforehand
If you’re setting a meeting, it’s fair to assume you know what topics you’d like to cover in it. Sending out a written agenda before a meeting gives attendees an idea of the goal and scope of the meeting, helping them decide whether they can add value or not. During the meeting, an agenda also helps the group to stay on-task and ensures everything necessary is covered, reducing the need for follow-up meetings later.
Cut Down the Attendee List
For many meeting attendees, their time in that meeting is better spent elsewhere doing other work. When planning a meeting, check that every single attendee is either a core decision-maker or can provide decision-makers with vital context to make an informed decision. If you find there are extra unnecessary attendees, cut them out; you can always send them a meeting minutes summary to fill them in later.
Use the Six Thinking Hats
If you struggle to conduct structured meetings, there are tools out there to help add greater structure. Dr. Edward de Bono published his book “Six Thinking Hats” in 1985 to help people and organizations move through ideation more productively.
In short, there are six hats, each representing a different mindset with its own place in the decision-making process:
- White hat = logical data, just the facts
- Black hat = difficulties, problems, reasons an idea wouldn’t work
- Yellow hat = optimism, positives, reasons and idea would work
- Red hat = feelings of those involved, first instincts, intuitive reactions
- Green hat = creative thinking, alternative solutions, new idea
- Blue hat = summarizing findings, assigning actionable next steps
During meetings, set a timer and let everyone know which color hat everyone should “wear” during that portion of the meeting. When that timer is up, move onto the next hat, and so on. Giving 5 minutes to each hat adds up to the 30-minute meeting, while 10 minutes per hat takes an hour. It can serve as a great tool for efficiently moving through a decision-making meeting while viewing the problem from all angles.
Here’s a great video on the “six hat” method:
Eliminate Unnecessary Meetings
Chances are if you have recurring meetings on your calendar, a good portion of them aren’t necessary any more. Often put in place for a particular project or committee, it can be difficult to finally eliminate a recurring invite from your calendar. Periodically complete an audit of your recurring meetings. See which ones are still necessary for your workflows, and eliminate the rest. You’ll get more done outside of meetings and be able to focus better on the meetings that really matter.
Cap Your Meeting Length (and stick to it!)
Whether it’s 30 minutes or a full hour, setting a strict end-time is a great way to encourage meeting attendees to focus on the meeting and reduce side-tracking. Even if a meeting starts to run over, calling them to an end on time will eventually lead to expectations of timely meeting ends. You might be surprised how much you can get done in half an hour when all attendees are focused on the task!
Better Meetings Start With You
If you’ve ever seen dominos standing all in a row, you know that it just takes one small push to cause a ripple effect with huge impact. If you want to start having more productive meetings, there’s nothing stopping you. You’re fully in charge of your own meetings and how they’re run, and once you start seeing results, it’s likely that those around you will follow suit. Don’t be afraid to lead the change you wish to see in your organization. Your coworkers and team members will thank you for it!