Allow me to paint a picture.
INTERIOR – OFFICE
The CAMERA pans to a worker, furiously typing on their computer. Headphones on. The keys CLACK with productivity until–
— A LOUD CHIME rings out.
The CAMERA zooms slowly to the computer screen. A meeting alert flashes across the monitor.
— The worker’s head hits the desk with a soft THUD.
We CUT back to the worker. Head hung in exasperation, the worker stops their typing, rises, and departs to attend their call.
It’s happened to all of us. Stop work. Attend meeting. Rinse and repeat.
According to a recent study from Workfront, 62% of workers believe meetings are the No. 1 thing that gets in the way of work. And following the above scenario, it’s easy to see why. Meetings can be productivity killers. They interrupt. They accomplish little. They take up time.
But they’re also necessary.
They improve collaboration. Align the team. Increase information sharing. The problem, however, is when a meeting does none of those things and interrupts your workflow.
So how do you make sure you are asking your team to attend a productive meeting? One that will help them do their job rather than hinder them? Below, I outline several questions you need to ask yourself before you send your next meeting invite.
Question #1: Do You Have a Meeting Agenda?
There’s a reason this question appears first on our list: It will quickly weed out unnecessary or ill-planned meetings.
If you answered “Yes” to this question, continue on to our next question.
But if you answered “No” — cancel the meeting. Do not pass go.
If there is no plan for the meeting, how are you going to accomplish anything? Based on my own experiences, a meeting with no plan leads to talking in circles and more questions than answers. No plan means no meeting. End of story.
Bonus Tip: To ensure your meeting is as productive as possible always document the agenda within the invite for all attendees to see. This allows attendees to prepare and contribute to the agenda in a meaningful way.
Question #2: Is Progress Dependent on Others?
Considering where you are on your current project: Do you need others to move forward? Or can you achieve progress on your own?
If you’re able to take the next step without the input of other team members, a meeting should not be held. Instead, message the team to let them know you’ve moved forward and outline next steps for them (if there are any).
If you do need other team members to complete the project’s next steps, you might need a meeting. Our next couple of questions can help you decide.
Question #3: Do You Need a Conversation or a Meeting?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a conversation is “a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.”
A meeting is “an assembly of people, especially the members of a society or committee, for discussion.”
Which one do you need?
If you’re able to receive the input you need with a simple email, message, or phone call, don’t bother interrupting the whole team with an in-person meeting.
However, if you need to discuss your plan of attack, brainstorm new ideas, or collaborate with several team members, a meeting sounds like a great idea. Just make sure you document your agenda and define clear roles for each person you need to attend.
As Neen James, author of Folding Time™ and Attention Pays™, recently told us in an interview, “As a leader, every time you ask someone to attend a meeting with you, you’re stealing minutes from them. So you’d better make it worthwhile.”
Question #4: Is This a Recurring Meeting?
Recurring meetings show up on everyone’s calendar. Whether it’s for status updates or results reviews, they pop up often and usually have the same agenda. Which spells bad news in terms of productivity.
A recurring meeting should only occur if you have something new to discuss.
Have a weekly meeting scheduled but no updates to give the team? Cancel it. Have a short update that can be summarized in an email? Cancel it. Need to review several updates with the whole team? Have it.
If You Need to Have This Meeting…
… You’re gonna want to follow a few rules.
From setting the agenda to meeting preparation to inviting the right people, there are a few tricks to hosting meetings that drive results. So, if you answered the questions above and concluded “Yes, I do need to have this meeting,” here are a few meeting best practices you should follow beforehand.
Want your organization’s productivity to soar? Optimize your workflow with these prioritization tips.