If you are feeling meeting’ed out or find yourself working late to get the ‘real work’ done because your day was back-to-back meetings, I feel your pain!

Last week I was invited to a 60-minute meeting that actually went 75 minutes with unclear objectives and a lot of time wasted. Midway through it I thought, “Let’s get on with it, I have other things to do.” And when we got to what I really needed at the end, I ended up being late to my next meeting.

Sound familiar? In my own world and in conversations with clients, I constantly see and hear about this ongoing challenge:

Too much time wasted on meetings that include people, topics, and details that aren’t relevant for THAT meeting.

Stop the meeting madness I say! My big lesson in meeting management came early in my career. We were challenged to calculate the cost of our meetings: salaries of those involved, the cost of the space we were using, opportunity costs of other work, etc. When I realized that a one-hour meeting with six mid-level managers cost a couple of thousand dollars, I never looked at meetings the same way again.

You can make your meetings relevant, timely, and engaging for those involved with the following tips:

1. Make Time for Pre-meeting Prep

  • Determine the specific objective for the meeting with the desired outcome. This should include the specific decision, action, plan, or learning item that needs to be achieved or clarified.
  • Identify who should be a part of the meeting. Each person’s presence should matter, not just so that they feel included or not left out, but because they have something meaningful to contribute to the meeting agenda and/or are critical to the outcome achieved for the meeting. People who are involved in executing action from the meeting topic do not necessarily need to be in the meeting. Their time may be most productive outside of the meeting.
  • Determine the amount of time needed to cover the topic to achieve the outcome. Thirty and 60-minute time-frames are for the lazy. Maybe it is 40 minutes or 70 minutes that are needed.  By planning the meeting objective and who needs to be involved, you can be more specific in the meeting time.

2. Facilitate a Productive and Timely Meeting

  • Start on time. When you start late, your standard for meetings is set. If Chris schedules an 11 a.m. meeting, but the meeting really starts at 11:10, what do you think happens next time? The next time Chris has a meeting, you figure you don’t have to be on time. Start on time and those that come in late will get the message.
  • Stick to the time-frame so you don’t back up everyone’s meetings for the rest of the day. What gets the meeting off track? Starting late, not being clear on the objective, and letting tangents get in the way. During the meeting track tangents with a list of items to cover if there is time once the objective is met.
  • Share expectations or ground rules for how the meeting will be run, not just the agenda. Educate the meeting participants about the time-frame, agenda (including the specific objective to be achieved), participation expectations, how the decision will be made (if applicable), and who should be documenting details.
  • Conclude the meeting with specifics of who is doing what by when. Don’t end the meeting with assumptions. Clarity on these specifics reduces follow-up afterward. Schedule the next meeting before ending this one whenever possible.

3. Recap Next Steps Post-Meeting

  • Recap key action items, time-frames, and owners of the items in writing. Better yet, assign that task to someone.
  • Follow through on your action items. Your team will follow your lead. Take timely action and communicate updates.

A bonus tip: Take control of your own calendar. When you are invited to a meeting, professionally verify the objective and whether your participation is necessary for achieving the objective. It might be best to decline some meetings where your presence is not necessary and leave that time open for follow-up and your other responsibilities.

Think about the time savings, productivity gains, and overall cost benefits if everyone in your company followed these meeting management tips. The madness would cease and sanity would prevail.

What do you think? How else can we stop the calendar-filling meeting madness? Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Conversations That Sell.

4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow


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