Too many meetings? Here's some helpful advice


When I worked in an office, I often felt that my whole day was taken up with meetings - and that too many of the meetings went on far too long or were otherwise a waste of time.

From the Harvard Business Review Blog (free with registration) here's some helpful advice, written by Elizabeth Grace Saunders, about how to manage meetings - including, where necessary, how to avoid them. She counsels:

* Don't accept all meeting invitations. Before accepting, she says, ask yourself whether you really need to attend? If the answer is no, then say no. Similarly, ask whether the meeting would be rescheduled if you were sick on the day of the meeting. If the answer is "no," Saunders says, then you don't need to go. If you feel you need to know what happened, Saunders offers these strategies:
  • Ask for a pre-meeting look at the agenda so you can pass on your comments to the facilitator to share. (Bonus: this may force the facilitator to actually make an agenda!)
  • Send someone else from your group to communicate your team's position.
  • Request a copy of the meeting notes after the fact.
* Reduce the number of meetings you schedule - in other words, treat your staff's time the way you would like yours to be treated. The screenshot above is Saunders' very useful rubric to help you decide about scheduling a meeting. When you do need to hold a meeting, here's Saunder's advice about how to make the meeting effective:
  • Don't schedule meetings for FYI 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.
 And here's a link to an earlier post about some other meeting ground rules.

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