Why is a table and whiteboard our default backdrop for meetings?
Have you heard the one about a weekly meeting that wasted 300,000 hours a year? The one that isn’t a joke at all but an actual statistic from Bain & Company? While the number is nauseating, it’s not particularly surprising. From my interactions with leaders and employees around the world, meetings are a growing source of frustration and resentment. For many of us, only a few meetings are productive and time-saving — the rest are the reason we don’t have time to focus on valuable work. So how can we reduce the role of meetings in our day to make room for work that actually moves our business forward? By adjusting our existing habits and organizational policy around meetings. Start by experimenting with the 12 pro tips below:
1. Perform a meeting audit—and cancel all unproductive meetings.
After several divisions at Sprint reviewed the value of meetings held in the previous year — including events, off-sites, and team gatherings — the company eliminated 30% of them. Conduct your own meeting audit and cancel every meeting that doesn’t add value or has outlived its original purpose
2. Decline invites to unnecessary or irrelevant meetings.
When Accenture performed a meeting audit to determine the overall cost of time and resources, it empowered its managers to decline meetings without guilt, fear, or penalty.
3. Don’t attend any meeting with more than eight people.
Follow Google’s lead and limit attendees to people who need to provide input. Afterward, share the decisions made in the meeting with those who will benefit from the information, but would’ve otherwise been silent bystanders.
4. Institute Meeting-Free Wednesdays.
At Airbnb, this best practice gives employees a large block of time to concentrate on heads-down work instead of trying to squeeze it in between meetings.
5. Stay on your feet.
Standing is less comfortable for attendees, which motivates most people to stay on topic and wrap on time.
6. Set a timer.
Determine a hard stop for meetings like HBO’s division for Domestic Network Distribution did. A designated timekeeper limits meetings to one hour, which keeps sessions focused and mindful of attendees’ time.
7. Ditch the conference room.
Why is a table and a whiteboard our default backdrop for meetings? One of my most creative employees is known for holding meetings over pedicures or drinks at rooftop bars. Meeting in unconventional places keeps people more engaged and can spark creative ideas.
8. Rethink default modes.
Adjust your smartphone’s calendar settings from one hour to 30 minutes. Only change the timing if a meeting will require more than a half-hour to achieve its goal.
9. Mandate meeting agendas.
Distributing an outline of discussion and action items in advance helps attendees come prepared — and prevents meetings from being derailed by tangents or cross-talk.
10. Minimize meeting materials.
For Novartis’ quarterly financial meetings, the pharmaceutical company limits each teams’ contribution to two slides. This change