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Easy ways to stop pointless meetings

Tags: Be interesting | Meetings | Impact | Leadership | Save time | Do more | Influencing

14th February

This week, ten people have asked me to write a Tip on today’s topic. Ten!

And I’m going to take a wild guess and assume they aren’t the only ten people in the world who want tips on this.

The topic?

Pointless meetings.

Are you still reading?

Thought so.

Obviously, we can’t fix everything about meetings in one Tip.

But we can, at least, make sure they have a point to them.

And, for that, we need to remember The Golden Rule of Meetings:

       Meetings are supposed to cause something to happen

In other words, after a meeting, something should happen because of it. A new decision has been made. A new action has been taken.

Therefore, even if a meeting was the most dreadful, tedious hour of your career… if there’s an action afterwards, at least there was a point to it.

So, how to make sure that every meeting does cause something to happen?

  • Firstly, know what you want to happen! So, start your prep by asking yourself “what do I want to happen after this meeting? What decisions need to be made? What actions need to be taken?” (So don’t start your prep by thinking what should happen during the meeting. Instead, start with what should happen after it)
  • Then identify the only agenda topics you need to cover, to ensure you achieve this outcome
  • Now, identify the shortest time period you need for the meeting (trust me on this: meetings don’t always have to last one hour)
  • And the fewest people that need to be there (remember, you can send Actions Arising to people who need to know the outcome, but don’t need to contribute to it)

And that’s it. Start with your desired outcome and work backwards – streamlining content, duration and attendees. For example, let’s look at your weekly update meetings…

  • Start by knowing your outcome. What do you want to happen after the meeting? Let’s say it’s simply this: for everyone to try something new next week. And that's it
  • Therefore the agenda only needs to contain two things (1) Success/challenge share – everyone has 30 seconds max to share their proudest success and biggest challenge since last week’s meeting (2) Identify your new thing. Everyone then says what their new thing to try this week is. This’ll either be copying someone else’s success, or finding a new solution to their big challenge
  • Duration – 15 minutes max – five for the first agenda item; ten for the second
  • People – just the team. We don’t need anyone else

And the benefits of this?

  • A fantastic outcome – each of your team has a new thing to try. Compare that to typical Updates where nothing happens as a result
  • It’s quick – 15 minutes, not an hour
  • It’s focused – no time wasted on peripheral, pointless agenda topics

But best of all: there’s a point to it.

The meeting’s no longer just a Talking Shop.

Instead, it’s an action-triggering event that made things happen. Things that wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been a meeting.

Now that’s a great way to spend your time.

Action Point

Look at your next three meetings:

  • For the ones you’re chairing, identify now the action/decision you want to happen after them. Focus your prep before – and chairing during – to make sure you achieve them; and
  • For the others, ask the meetings’ owners what actions/decisions they want as a result

And, for any meeting where nobody can identify a desired action/decision? Don’t have the meeting. There’s no point having it.

And click here for more insights into how to have better meetings.