I worked hard over the holidays and was pleased with what I accomplished. What was the key to my productivity? Almost no meetings.

Now it’s January, and my schedule is full of meetings once again. Don’t get me wrong – many of the meetings I attend are very valuable. But like everyone else, all too often I find myself trapped in a meeting that’s a waste of my time.

My 4 guidelines for effective meetings

I wrote about the four questions to ask before every meeting a few years ago. But as we all know, it’s sometimes useful to repeat important information. In that article I suggested that as you plan each meeting you should ask the following questions:

  • What’s the point? What will make you say, “Wow, that was useful!” Aim the entire meeting at getting you there.
  • How long should the meeting be? Here’s a good rule of thumb: As short as possible. Set a hard deadline to keep people from wandering, and if you have to go more than 90 minutes, take breaks.
  • Who should be in the meeting? A similar rule of thumb applies again here: As few people as possible. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a different rule. If the meeting has more attendees than you could feed with two pizzas, it’s too big.
  • Are the participants introverts or extroverts? For extroverts, meetings can be a great place to formulate ideas through talking. Not so much for introverts, who benefit from a more structured meeting with built-in time to collect their thoughts.

An additional 5 questions to test if a meeting is worthwhile

My respected colleague, Val Wright, recently sent out her article on “Here’s what you need to stop and start on your first day back at work.” Her suggestions include, five crucial questions to ask before every meeting:

  • Are we ready to meet on this topic?
  • Do we have the information we need?
  • Do we have clear outcomes?
  • Do we have the right people gathered?
  • Do we need to cancel, delay, or adjust?”

These are great additions to my list. I’m going to use all these questions both as I plan meetings and as I decide which ones I’m going to attend.

If you’d like more information on how to plan and structure great meetings, email me at ggolden@gailgoldenconsulting.com

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