Meetings are an everyday part of work; but did you know we spend an average of approximately 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings?  Sitting through long meetings can be a challenge for most employees and it can disrupt daily workflow. Here’s a little secret (ok,  maybe it’s not a secret!) – meetings themselves may not be the problem. Meetings are essential for communicating important information, but we need to find better ways to make them more productive.

Size: The first question I recommend asking is “who needs to be at this meeting?” Both Google and Amazon have strategies for including only essential personnel.  Google limits its meeting size to 10 attendees, while Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a “two-pizza rule”. The rule states any meeting that requires more than two pizzas to feed the attendees is too large.  In addition, consultants Bain & Company found that “for each additional person over seven members in a decision-making group, decision effectiveness is reduced by approximately 10%.” Limiting meeting size to the people who really need to be there keeps the meeting on track.   

Objective: A second question is “what is the purpose of this meeting?” The person facilitating the meeting should state the meeting’s objective(s). Defining the goals keeps everyone involved on track and moves the meeting forward. These goals should be: focused, actionable, timely, and timed. In other words, the objective should be clear, the group involved should be able to take action on the objective, and this should be the right time to discuss the objective.

Time: A third question is, “what is the length of the meeting?” It’s crucial Ensuring that all meetings have a set time is crucial.  Some people like to use the 48-minute rule, while others prefer the 22-minute meeting style. The 48-minute rule allows leaders to keep the meeting focused while permitting time for valuable discussion. Keeping all attendees aware of a start and end time during a 22-minute meeting fills the entire meeting time with content that’s important.

Agenda: The final question is, “what is the planned agenda for the meeting?”   Taking the time to plan the agenda is a good way to keep the meeting moving forward. According to the Wall Street Journal, “An effective agenda works like a plan for an event: It has clear goals or key questions to answer.” Meeting preparation has also been shown to increase engagement amongst employees.

Meetings don’t have to be a colossal waste of time.  In order to make them more productive, remember to decide on the number of attendees and the length of the meeting, prepare the agenda before the meeting and communicate clear objectives to the attendees.