How to Get the Most Out of Your Meetings

I love meetings. That is, as long as the meetings involve sharp people who are engaging in interesting discussions and moving forward on significant issues.

To be honest, most of the meetings we have at FYI and at Fuller fit those criteria. But I’ll be the first to admit that not all of them do.

That’s why I was intrigued by a recent Harvard Business Review blog post about breaking addictions to meetings. Even if you’re not addicted to meetings, you likely would be more effective and efficient if you used your meeting time better (or even devoted less time to meetings to begin with).

Some of the tips that I found most helpful were:

  • Reduce the number of meetings you schedule — and reduce their length

  • Don't schedule meetings for informational items that you can communicate via e-mail. Only use meetings for discussions and decisions that must happen with a team, in real time.

  • Send a clear agenda when you send the meeting invitation — not two minutes before the meeting — so it's easier for everyone to tell whether they need to attend.

  • Designate someone to take thorough notes on the discussion, the decisions, and the rationale behind those conclusions. Circulate those to your manager, and anyone else who might need to be in the loop — but doesn't need to come to the meeting.

We at FYI find that some meetings can be 15 minutes long, and that meetings that we might assume need to be 60 minutes can actually be 45 minutes. We’re being more ruthless about which team members need to attend which meetings (or even just portions of meetings) so we can steward our time and energy more wisely.

As you think about the meetings you face, which of these tips would be most helpful to you? Which would be most helpful to others on your team?