Don't waste your next meeting

Don’t waste your next meeting, use this format

Have you ever experienced meetings that start late, run long, go off topic, or fail to achieve anything productive?


Most professionals attend an average of 61.8 meetings per month in the course of their average work. Research suggests that over 50 percent of this meeting time is wasted and 39% of meeting participants admit to dozing off during a meeting.


In other words, most of us are accustomed to ‘death by meeting’ – boring meetings that seem unnecessary.


The answer is not always to abandon meetings altogether, like some teams have done. Meetings are where your team’s culture perpetuates itself. If you don’t ever hold meetings, how will people establish a sense of ‘the way things are done around here’?


Meetings are more productive when more time is spent preparing the agenda and minutes. For example research has shown that if you spend 50 minutes, instead of 30, preparing for a meeting you can double its productivity.


Preparation is not the only way to make meetings worthwhile, interesting and valuable to all. Most of the time, meetings fail to be productive because attendees are unclear about how decisions will be made. Will the meeting be autocratic or collaborative? How will speaking up be received? Will a variety of perspectives be valued, or should those perspectives be given at another time?


For this reason, powerful meetings need a clear format, with a clear purpose and clear roles. This is particularly the case in virtual teams, for example where team members connect via videoconferencing or using their mobile phone.


You can ensure that you will have all bases covered at your next meeting by using this format, which draws on a range of best practice alternatives:

  • Have a clear purpose. Establish an agenda that includes a clear objective, to avoid confusion and help people to prepare.
  • Give information ahead of time. People can’t be prepared for something they don’t have information about – provide information ahead of time.
  • Appoint a note-taker to take minutes or record the call. A notetaker can ensure that details aren’t lost. Notes will ensure that people who are unable to attend the meeting will have an opportunity to catch up.
  • Start and finish exactly on time. Show that you value people’s time by keeping to time. No one wants to be kept waiting or held back from their next commitment.
  • Create discussion. Don’t use a meeting to hold catch ups with individuals – while the two of you are catching up, their peers are sitting by idly wondering what else they could be doing. Instead, take advantage of everyone’s presence by giving them an opportunity to participate.
  • Establish actions or outcomes. State the conclusions and results of the meeting clearly so that agreed actions can be followed up.


You want to be the person who calls great, productive meetings, not the one who wastes people’s time. Use the format above and remember to clarify the process that will be used for decision-making.



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