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If you must call a meeting, make it count.

Posted on August 7, 2013   |   




Don’t waste everyone’s time with one of these mistakes.

Meetings are incredibly expensive. The next time you’re in a meeting, mentally add up the hourly rates of everyone in the room.

Then factor in the opportunity cost for what every person could be accomplishing instead of sitting and listening to why a particular stock of paper better suits the brochure than another.

Next, factor in what you could be doing instead.

Then ask yourself, why are there so many meetings? According to a salary.com poll, 47% of the respondents said having to attend too many meeting is the biggest waste of time at work.

Still, sometimes you do have to meet — so when you do, don’t ruin the meeting by continuing to make these mistakes:

  1. Not sharing the agenda and information in advance. Without a framework, you can’t stay on track. If a decision has to be made during a meeting, the information required to make that decision should be sent ahead of time. Send documents, reports, etc., to participants at least 24 hours in advance.
  2. Starting a meeting without a defined outcome. This gives everyone a clear reason to be present. Productivity expert David Allen recommends starting every meeting with a “statement of wild success,” a clear definition of the best possible outcome for the meeting.
  3. Cell phones at your meeting. Impose a ban and have everyone check their phones at the door.
  4. Too many people. Everyone should think carefully about the opportunity costs of a meeting.  According to Ken Segall, author of Meetings Are a Skill You Can Master and Steve Jobs Taught Me How, many businesses follow a misguided principle: the more critical the project, the more people must be thrown at it.
  5. Not establishing accountability. Great meetings result in decisions, but a decision doesn’t produce a result if someone doesn’t carry it out. Determine who, what, where and when. Never let ownership be fuzzy or unclear. Having lots of action items doesn’t do anybody any good if they aren’t owned.
  6. Your meeting is too long. All meetings need to have constraints, and there is clearly a law of diminishing returns after 45 minutes. In fact, keeping meeting to 30 minutes is ideal. Once you have just five minutes left in the meeting, wrap up the meeting by quickly summarizing action items.