Science Has Some Suggestions for Making Meetings Productive

You can't run a business without meetings, but you can run it better with more productive meetings.

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By John Rampton

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Meetings are a necessary evil if you're a startup founder, manager of an existing business or involved with sales. This is true when attempting to book a meeting with your team or a prospect. You send an invite and they either drag their feet getting back to you or decline the meeting.

What's the deal? Don't they realize how important the meeting is? Honestly, they may. Or, they're just too busy to set aside the time for an hour-long meeting.

The good news is that you can rectify this problem ASAP by following these five suggestions.

Related: 8 Steps to Take After Booking a Meeting to Make Certain the Meeting Is Productive

What is the goal of the meeting?

Before you start throwing a meeting onto your calendar, take a step back and think about the goal of the meeting. Considering that the average meeting goer either daydreams, skips, sleeps or feels overwhelmed, you want to make sure that there's a valid reason for them to be there.

Typically, the types of meetings that you should book on your calendar would be:

  • Project meetings.
  • Information-sharing meetings.
  • Decision making and problem solving.
  • Collaborative meetings.
  • Innovation and motivational meetings.

Regardless if a meeting falls under those categories or not, follow these guidelines to ensure that you're meeting isn't a waste of time.

  • Be clear about the goal of the meeting. In other words, know what you want to get out of the meeting.
  • Your goal should inform you on who should be at the meeting. Most of the time, you don't need to invite your entire team. As a rule of thumb, trying following Google's rule of limiting the meeting to just eight people.
  • What's needed to make the meeting successful? Make sure that you provide these notes, documents, or handouts in advance.
  • When does the meeting have to take place? Consider timelines, your budget, and the schedules of your team or clients.
  • Think about the meeting length. You'll get into this in more detail later. But, it's suggested that you keep them as short as possible and don't go over the allotted time.
  • Finally, create an agenda for the meeting and send it to the attendees so that everyone is on the same-page. This is crucial when starting a business.

Related: Meetings Suck. Here Are 5 Ways to Make Them Suck Less.

Schedule the Meeting For Tuesday Afternoon

It's not uncommon for meetings to be scheduled on a Monday morning. However, according to one survey the best day and time to schedule meetings are Tuesday afternoons.

From Quartz:

"If you want to make sure everyone can be there, the best time to meet is Tuesday afternoon, according to a study from YouCanBookMe, a UK company that makes scheduling apps for businesses. The firm crunched data from more than 2 million responses to 530,000 invitations and concluded that 2:30pm Tuesday is the time most people are free."

Interestingly, Bridget Harris, co-founder of YouCanBookMe, stated that the company holds an all-hands meeting at 3pm Wednesdays. "By Wednesday lunch time, they've had two days to try and figure out what they're trying to do," she said.

At the same time, you don't want to schedule meetings late in the afternoon or on Friday when people are run down.

Keep meetings to 15 minutes.

One of the main grips with meeting is length. We're all busy and don't want to have our schedule interrupted by a meeting. This explains why Marissa Mayer scheduled 10-minute meetings and the team at Percolate sets 15 minutes as their default length for all meetings.

There's also some science behind this. We don't have the attention spans to go much longer than 15-minutes or so. In fact, that's why every TED Talk is no more than 18-minutes long. Here are some calendar management tips to help you with figuring out how to do this with the variety of people you'll work with over the years.

Related: 4 Steps to Avoid 'Death by Meeting'

Eliminate unnecessary meetings.

It's been found that half of your meetings are a waste of time. No wonder people skip them. But, you can ensure that you're meetings are productive and worthy of attending by:

  • Not being bound to repeating calendar invites like a weekly check-in.
  • Being prepared. As mentioned earlier, share any relevant information with attendees before the meeting.
  • Avoiding large group meetings.
  • Taking the participants daily rhythms into account.
  • Eliminating distractions by asking your team to turn-off their smartphone distractions.
  • Paying attention and allowing others to share their thoughts.
John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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