A creative thinking workshop attendee asked me about best practices for productive meetings. She described facing a daily onslaught of meetings. These are defining her work day and have her, in her own words, drowning. While that’s strong language, we all know she’s not the only executive that feels that way.

8 Best Practices for Productive Meetings

best practices for productive meetings

In response, I shared eight best practices for productive meetings that I’ve used to reduce, shorten, or improve business meetings.

1) Negotiate the meetings you attend

Don't immediately accept every meeting. Determine whether you need to be present. If it's a one-on-one meeting with a boss or someone above you in the organization, immediately negotiate for the most favorable terms: a more convenient time or day, a shorter time, or by phone or online (instead of in-person).

2) Schedule shorter meetings by default

Configure your calendar scheduling defaults for 50-minute and 20-minute meetings instead of an hour and half hour. This provides a dependable buffer between any back-to-back meetings in which you find yourself and creates space. If possible, also create automatic time buffers between meetings to allow fewer options for others to automatically schedule you.

3) Block your own time to get work done

Actively manage your calendar and schedule meetings with yourself to get work done. I label these personal meetings as GWD so everyone who can see my calendar knows that it’s a focused time.

4) Empower team members to represent you

If you are part of a team, use meetings as an opportunity to remove yourself and let them represent your team's perspectives and interests. Create a game plan upfront so the individual knows how much latitude they enjoy to make binding decisions that you'll automatically support without any back-and-forth questions or discussion.

5) Prepare a proposed agenda for every meeting

How many scheduled meetings lack agendas? Always show up at a meeting with three points that you think it should address. If the person in charge didn't prepare an agenda, you can typically step in and shape the discussion and timing for greatest value.

6) Show up early (yes, early) and set the stage for a shorter meeting

If you're there a tad early, use the time to get a sense of where people stand on the topic. If possible, gain agreement on any points that don't require everyone be present to address.

7) Share your perspectives and counsel to move meetings ahead

Hone your skills and comfort in stepping in, even on meetings that aren't yours, to manage discussions, summarize points that have already been made, and suggest when the meeting moves ahead if the discussion gets stuck.

8) Quit using meetings as the fallback for poor communication

Too often, people schedule meetings to force people into a room to hear things that they won't read in an email or report. Use other techniques to avoid this trap. Make written communication shorter, simpler, and more compelling so people will want to digest them. Practice leaving voice mails that cover the key points that a meeting would convey.

Which of these best practices for productive meetings could work for you?

How many of these ideas can you start using right away? And don’t forget, if you really hate meetings, jumping out of the corporate world made a huge impact in reducing the number of pointless meetings for me. Admittedly, that's a drastic move JUST to avoid a day full of cramped conference rooms! – Mike Brown

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