The Meeting Rule

I know someone who has a personal rule about meetings. They should be 15 minutes. Any meeting that is longer than that is not efficient.

I don’t think that she ever enforces that rule in her workplace, but it does make me stop to think. How do I make the meetings I have more effective?

Here a a few things that I find work for myself:

  1. Make sure that you have an outcome in mind when you enter a meeting. The purpose of a meeting is to have a group of people make a decision and change their actions. Not knowing what actions need to be changed before the meeting can lead to an ineffective meeting. You should notice that sometimes the outcome of the meeting is to get more ideas that you can act on later. You may not know what ideas will come, but you do know that you want to act on them later.
  2. Keep your meetings to 90 minutes. Any meeting longer than 90 minutes just causes people to lose sight of the action that is required. If you need more time, schedule a second meeting.
  3. Keep an action list. Review the list from the previous meeting at the beginning of the meeting. There is no point in having a meeting if there isn’t going to be any action. If there is action, it should be written down, and then forward movement should be talked about at the next meeting.
  4. Invite the right people. It is way more effective to talk to people before the meeting to see if they need to be involved in the meeting than to try and replicate the meeting conversation for them later. Find out who you think should be at your meeting. Ask them. Then ask them who else they think should be involved. Soon you’ll have the right group. Don’t just allow people to join the meeting because they are interested. Then you might get a group of people who are interested but don’t have decision-making authority.

I won’t be stopping my meetings after 15 minutes today. But I will be working to have really effective meetings that have good action steps as a result.

I think that I owe a great deal regarding my thinking on meetings to Peter Drucker’s book The Effective Executive. I try to read this book once a year to refresh myself on all of the good advice he has. You should read it too.