Brace yourself: we LIKE meetings at Meeteor. At our meetings, we’re deep in conversation and debate, but also smiling and having a great time. We know this is unusual. According to research, most employees attend 62 meetings a month, half of which they consider a waste of time – that’s 31 hours of unproductive time every month. In fact, 47% of the employees surveyed considered meetings to be the number one time-waster in the office. At Meeteor, we know that meetings don’t need to be the time-wasting, anxiety-provoking, resentment-inducing experience many have come to expect.
Meetings are a time to shift from our individual work to collaborative work. Meetings provide space to think deeply with your colleagues, solve problems, make decisions, and plan for what comes next. When your meetings serve a purpose they can optimize, not distract from, your time in the office. And, well, that’s when you start enjoying them as much as we do.
This is how we do it.
Practice 1. Think before you meet
We try to only hold necessary meetings at Meeteor. So what makes a meeting necessary? This nifty flowchart, modeled after one by Elizabeth Grace Sanders from Harvard Business Review, can help you answer that question:
At Meeteor, we take advantage of a wide variety of cloud-based collaboration tools. Many times, we are able to gather input, discuss an idea, and make a decision without a meeting. One way we do that is through Google docs.
One person drafts the initial content and shares the Google doc with the appropriate individuals. The initiator must be clear on what input he or she is seeking as well as when feedback must be provided. By using the Suggesting Mode, everyone can see what’s been added or removed. We use the commenting feature to ask questions and leave responses, with the ultimate responsibility of the document creator to finalize changes, incorporate feedback and resolve comments.
Practice 2. Invite the right people
Ever been to a meeting and wondered why you were there? When it comes to inviting colleagues, be very picky about who you include. At first, it may seem like a bold move to invite only a few key people to a meeting. No one wants to intentionally leave people out, or be left out. But at the same time, no one really wants to sit through another meeting just because you felt bad.
If it’s a challenge in your organization to limit meeting invites to only the critical contributors, consider making non-critical participants optional, so they can attend if they feel the need but may also opt out. Over time, your colleagues will (silently) thank you for not dragging them to another meeting. Just be sure to follow up with them after so they stay informed of the meeting outcomes.
On the flip side, you can decline meetings where your real-time input is unnecessary. By asking the meeting organizer if your participation is critical, you raise awareness that you are OK with not being invited to meetings. Go one step further by offering to provide input in other ways (like reviewing a document or sending thoughts by email). Schedule a reminder to follow up after the meeting to inquire about any outcomes that may affect your work.
Practice 3. Thoughtfully prepare for the meeting
Now, it’s time to make sure the meeting is a productive use of everyone’s time. Here’s a list of practices we use to thoughtfully prepare for each meeting:
Start with the end in mind. Draft a meeting goal or desired outcome so you know what you want to accomplish (not just what you want to do) during the meeting.
Allocate an appropriate amount of time. List the agenda items and roughly estimate how long you’ll spend on each prior to determining how long the meeting should be.
Identify prework. Pull together any materials or questions that meeting participants should review prior to the meeting. This will increase the likelihood that everyone is prepared to have a productive discussion.
Send materials at least 24 hours in advance. Give participants time to prepare too by sending the agenda and prework 24 hours in advance of the meeting.
Practice 4. Facilitate productive conversation
You don’t need to be an expert facilitator to manage a meeting. At Meeteor, we utilize these practices to help keep us on track:
Stick to the agenda. Start with a quick review of the meeting goal and agenda. Keep a copy of the agenda in front of you as a reminder of what topics need to be covered. Use it as a way to bring the conversation back to focus.
Use a Backburner list. When the conversation goes off track, acknowledge that the topic is important but not the purpose of today’s meeting. Write it down in a backburner list and assign someone to follow up on it.
Assign a note-taker role. Note taking is a critical role and should be taken seriously. It is difficult to facilitate the conversation and take notes at the same time. Ask someone on the team to write down (or type up) the next steps, decisions and key information so you can focus on leading the meeting.
End the meeting with a wrap up. Save a minute or two to review the next steps, assign them to various team members and bring the meeting to an official close.
Practice 5. Manage the follow through
Just because the meeting has ended, doesn’t mean your job as a meeting leader is over. Take a few minutes to type up or reorganize the meeting notes, or ask the note-taker to provide you with a final copy. Share them with the meeting participants and anyone else who should be kept in the loop. If you use a shared task list, add ALL the meeting next steps, even those assigned to others. This will ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
We drink our own champagne
At Meeteor, we use our own software to plan, facilitate and follow through with meetings. We help other companies use our practices to do the same. Come join us on our mission to make meetings the best part of the workday! Yup, you read that right.