How to: Run an effective meeting

Most meetings stink. Yes, even the ones you organise. Many Employees Eagerly Talking (see what we did there?) is the best-case scenario. Next time you’re at the 50-minute mark, look around. Someone is checking their phone, someone is doing other work, and you’re probably organising your household chores. Most have tuned out. 

Give people space, and we’ll fill it! Case in point, meetings never ever ever finish early, do they? Harvard Business Review estimates that we are losing billions from wasted time – not including the hours we spend grumbling about our jammed calendars. Want better? (we know you do!). These six meeting hacks are backed by science – so let’s reclaim our precious time.

1. Do you even need a meeting?

Before you flick out yet another invite, mentally go through this checklist:

2. Articulate the agenda

In one sentence, can you describe why you are meeting? The purpose should be clear before you join; if it’s not, it’s worth asking. One person prepping an agenda is far faster than many people figuring it out on the fly (unless its a one-on-one meeting, in which case, do it together!). 

You are meeting to move forward on something, so here’s a simple structure: What do we need to share? What do we need to decide? What are the following actions required? Assign the tasks using a what, when and (importantly), who framework. 

3. Meetings aren’t a spectator sport 

The leaner the invite list, the more time it leaves for the uninvited to get on with it. Trust us; there’s no FOMO when it comes to meetings. Meeting minutes are meeting manners, so assign one person to note down significant discussions, critical decisions and next steps. A 2-minute read can help non-attendees to stay in the loop in a fraction of the time.

4. Try the 15-minute meeting on for size 

Calling all efficiency aficionados. Research shows that we can only pay attention for 10 to 18 minutes before checking out. If meetings are unavoidable, try scheduling them for 15 minutes. Don’t trust yourself? Set a timer and stand up! Popularised by Silicon Valley, the stand-up meeting is designed for brevity – the longer you stand, the more uncomfortable you’ll get. And yes, you can still stand on video.

5. Ban phones (gasp)

Ruthless! Studies have shown our colleagues judge our scrolling – but we know very well that phones are distraction machines. Basecamp and others also ban laptops. Pull out the bic; handwritten notes are more memorable, anyway. It also gives you an excuse to get a lovely planner – an industry expected to balloon to $1.8 billion – someone’s on to something here!

6. The 10-minute rule

It’s time to ban ‘back to backs’ – they are no longer a badge of honour. Let’s give everyone back 10 minutes to review their tasks, collect themselves and turn their sights to the purpose of the next meeting. 💥

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