Did you know that there are about 11 million meetings taking place in America every day? According to a study by Dr. Steven Rogelberg, 37 percent of these meetings start late and are unproductive, costing an estimated $37 billion every year.
Now, I’ve never been a big fan of meetings. I think that in a vast majority of cases, they are a complete waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, brainstorming meetings are needed, strategic meetings are a must, but they can be cut short.
As an example, I used to be on the board for a charity organization here in L.A., and the meetings would go on forever, sometimes stretching 3-4 hours per meeting. It was so time-consuming that people stopped showing up. I asked if I could preside over a meeting and see if they could be more effective. Keep in mind, there were 12 board members, all of them with their very own opinions.
The next meeting lasted 30 minutes, and I dare say we accomplished more than we ever have in any 3 hour meeting? So what did I do? I used a couple of these tricks:
- First of all, send out the agenda beforehand, and tell everyone to read it. This is an absolute must. In my case, I told them everyone would be required to report on activities, and they would only get 2 minutes each. I demanded a confirmation via email.
- Establish rules before the meeting starts. For example, no off-topic discussions allowed until after the meeting is closed.
- Set a maximum time allowed for the meeting, but also don’t be afraid of ending the meeting if it’s done before the time is over. For this meeting, I set 40 minutes as an absolute deadline.
- Start the meeting on time. I don’t care if people are late. If you’re late, you’re missing out. The meeting starts on time, always, with or without you.
- Only invite the people who really need to be there. Ideally, if you’re having a sales meeting, only the sales manager(s) need to be there. It’s their job to communicate whatever was decided to the rest of the team.
- Make sure that everyone walks away with action items on their list.
Remember that the dollar signs are ticking for every minute people are in a meeting. If you are having a sales meeting with your team, let’s say 10 people, and they are all pulling in $100/hr in sales, that meeting is costing you $1000 per hour because they’re not out doing their work.
Kristen Gil, Google’s VP of Business Operations, explains how Google runs their meetings more effectively here.
Another good read is the Fast Co. article on how Steve Jobs used to run his very effective meetings.
Hopefully, you will have a better idea on how to run your next meeting after this!