How to Have More Productive Meetings

October 11, 2007

 
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Everyone knows that poorly planned, really boring meetings can really suck. But there’s also evidence they’re extremely unproductive.

A while back, Microsoft conducted a survey of 38,000 knowledge workers. They found that on average, meetings account for 5.5 hours of the average 45 hour work week. The study also revealed that 69% of the participants said meetings were an unproductive use of their time.

meetings-suck.jpg

Remember: 7 of 10 attendees think that meetings are an inefficient use of their time!

With that said, consider this before scheduling your next meeting: The average knowledge worker earns about $80k per year including salary, benefits, overhead, etc. That’s $34.19 per hour (45 hour work week). That means a 1.5 hour meeting costs about $50 per employee. If you have a team of 10, that’s $500.

My advice has always been to avoid as many meetings as you can (as host or participant). Most meetings are more informative, rather than productive anyways. That’s because most actual work is accomplished outside the meeting.

However, meetings are here to stay. There almost as certain as death and taxes, so we better learn to make the most of it.


Here are some strategies to help facilitate more productive meetings:

  • Always have a very clear purpose for the meeting. If the meeting’s just to touch base and keep the team connected, that’s fine. But everyone should know that’s the purpose before going into the meeting. Also consider whether a meeting is the best format for the intended purpose. Would an email have sufficed instead?
  • Strategically consider who should attend the meeting. Does the whole team need to attend? Do they need to attend for the whole meeting? If 80% of the attendees are only needed for 20% of the meeting, you’re wasting their time.
  • Always use a written agenda to guide you through your meeting and to help keep the meeting on track. Every attendee should get a copy of the agenda in advance. That way each participant can prepare themselves for the meeting (it’s also a sign that the meeting is well planed). The old business/new business model is an easy format to use in planning meeting agendas. It’s also not a bad idea to save the meeting agendas for reference. (See bellow to download sample agenda)
  • Start and end every meeting on time! If you get in the habit of finishing early, you’ll be everyone’s hero! Keeping the ROI in mind should help.

So before attending or scheduling your next meeting, remember how much meeting can really suck!

I downloaded these example meeting agenda templates from Microsoft’s template site:

formal_meeting_agenda.doc

informal_agenda.doc

timed_agenda.doc

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One Response to “How to Have More Productive Meetings”

  1. Best of 2007 : Nate’s Productivity Tips on January 5th, 2008 1:02 pm

    […] Meetings Suck! […]

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