In many companies, meetings are a part of daily operations. From one-on-one performance reviews, to lunches with clients, to department trainings, meetings are an efficient way to communicate and collaborate, and sometimes, a meeting is simply the best way to get something done.
That said, almost everyone has been to a meeting that felt, shall we say, less than worthwhile. One source reports that, generally speaking, employees would consider about 33% of meeting time to be “unproductive.” That means that some companies could likely reduce their meeting times by a whole third, without a significant drop in the meeting’s effectiveness.
This begs the question: how do you know if a meeting is really necessary? We came up with some criteria that should always be met before you schedule a meeting.
A meeting is only necessary if:
You can clearly define your objective.
What is it that you want the meeting to accomplish? This should be a specific goal—one that will be obvious when it’s achieved. Without this, your meeting isn’t likely to be very productive. If you haven’t clearly defined your objective, hold off on scheduling that meeting, and take some time to think a bit about what problem you need to solve.
You are willing to stick to an agenda.
Meetings take time out of precious workday hours. A well-organized meeting with a clear agenda is going to make sure that time is spent wisely. If you aren’t willing to make a plan for the meeting, or the topic makes it difficult to form an agenda, a meeting might not be the solution.
Everyone is prepared.
Are there preliminary things to be done before the meeting should take place? If a certain piece of information has to be found, or a certain task has to be completed, for the meeting to move forward, make sure it’s all done before the meeting is scheduled. Otherwise, you’re likely wasting everyone’s time.
You need others’ opinions to solve the problem.
Whose problem is this to solve? If you’re ultimately in charge, do you need input from others to make a decision? If you already have a pretty good idea of what next steps need to be, skip the meeting and get to work finding and implementing a solution instead.
Efficiency is crucial.
Does this problem need to be solved as quickly as possible? Are the topics complex, possibly requiring a lot of “back and forth” discussion and deliberation? If so, then a meeting is a great option, as it allows you to discuss problems in real time. If you only have simple questions with simple answers, and you can wait for a response without holding things up too much, sending an email might be more effective than scheduling a meeting.
You can keep it brief.
When meetings get too long, it’s easy for people to lose interest. Try to get a good idea of how long the meeting will take, and schedule time appropriately, so people know what to expect. Ideally, you’d keep meeting times around 30 minutes. If it’s going to take any longer than an hour, revisit your objective and try to narrow the scope of the meeting, if possible.
You know who to invite.
When your problem is clearly defined, your attendees should be, too. Only invite people to the meeting who are needed there and who will be able to contribute to finding solutions.
You can’t think of another way to achieve your goal.
Have you explored alternatives to holding an actual, in-person meeting? There are plenty of options—from stopping at a coworker’s desk very briefly, to making a quick phone call. Another way to think of this is to ask yourself the question: “What would happen if we didn’t hold this meeting?” This question might help you see that there is another, perfectly acceptable way to solve the problem.
By eliminating unnecessary meetings, you can free up a lot of time for the people in your company. Not only can this improve morale, but it can also lead to a more efficient and productive workplace. Try using this checklist to determine if your next meeting is necessary. If it doesn’t make the cut, it doesn’t need to happen!
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