Dylan Smith

How to host better meetings

My seven golden rules to stop wasting everyone’s time.

1. Limit meeting attendees

I wouldn’t go full Pareto principle on this, but you can probably achieve 90% of your meeting’s goals with 50% of the room.

If someone has useful input but doesn’t need to be present for the discourse, try to collect their ideas ahead of time. If a decision rests on a single person, present your solution to them after you’ve figured it out. Maybe you don’t need a meeting at all.

2. Don’t keep someone if they’re not needed the whole time

If your meeting addresses multiple topics (consider multiple smaller and shorter meetings!), front load the stuff that everyone has to be there for and cut people loose when the bits relevant to them are sorted.

3. Make clear the meeting’s background, agenda, and purpose

This often takes the form of a well-written calendar invitation, but equally could be a Slack message or even a verbal conversation. Reiterate this information when the meeting begins and stick to it.

4. Make sure your meeting has a purpose

Write a list of questions you need to answer or decisions you need to make in order to move your thing forward. Set yourself and your attendees up to walk away with clear next steps.

5. Ban laptops and phones

If someone (including you) brings a laptop to your meeting and the meeting doesn’t clearly involve doing some work on a laptop, you’ve probably a) poorly prepared or b) poorly communicated your great preparation.

Bringing a laptop or phone to a meeting tells everyone else, “I don’t expect to be engaged. I don’t want to be here.” Those things might be true, but you should have spoken up before walking into the room. Technology kills meetings.

6. Don’t do anything during the meeting that can wait

This could be anything, but it’s usually typing emails, typing documents, sharing files, sending calendar invitations, etc. Make notes and do these things later. No one is here to watch you type. Type on your own time.

I used to have a client who would type documents and send emails while I sat waiting. 30 minute meetings easily jumped to 90 and only ended once I started packing up. Not a great use of their money or my time.

7. Cancel your meeting

If your meeting nears and you realise that everything it would address has been resolved, that those things are better resolved in other ways, that you’re not prepared for it, or that you simply don’t need it, cancel it. I promise everyone will love you.

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