Too often meetings are seen as a necessary evil. They exist for us like they get in the way of us getting our jobs done rather than being necessary. We don’t give them our full attention, too often sending emails in an attempt to get at least something done.

“Unnecessary meetings cost U.S. businesses approximately $37 billion each year.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2005

However, running a business without meetings would be impossible to imagine. Business is by its very nature a collaborative endeavor. If you think about it, maybe the only way we get things done in our jobs is through people speaking and listening to each other; said even more simoply, just by having conversations.

Therefore, if we are going to get a return on the time and money invested in our meetings, we have to be more effective at managing the conversations in and around our meetings.

Executives spend more than 18 hours per week in meetings, according to research done by Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics.

Look for a way to think newly about your meetings? Answer these questions and they might help you look to see if you are having the right conversations with the right people and help to increase the effectiveness of your meetings.

Before: Outcome Focused

  • What precisely do you want the meeting to produce?
    • Is it a big enough return on my time invested?
    • How long do I really need the meeting to be to produce this result?
  • Who is invited to the meeting?
    • How will they contribute to the conversations towards the intended outcome?
    • Do they have the decision rights needed?
  • Who else needs to be included in the conversation and if so how?
  • What is the information that you or others need to be able to deliver the intended outcomes of the meeting?

The ideal meeting begins with people engaging in conversations before anyone comes to the meeting room.

During: Alignment Focused

  • Is everyone at the meeting aligned on the intended outcomes?
  • What actions are people take on?
    • What are they promising, is it crystal clear?
    • Do you know what will get delivered and by when?
  • What decisions are being made?
  • What are people taking away from the meeting?

After: Management Focused

  • What needs to get communicated from the meeting and to whom?
    • How will the actions and decisions live on beyond the meeting?
    • Who is going to follow-up?
  • How are people going to be held to account?

At their very best meetings allow us to bring people together to have the conversations needed to lead to great business results.  And at their worst, they use up our time, leaving us disengaged and exhausted, left in ineffective conversations that go nowhere.

How much time and intellectual effort do you put into designing the conversations in and around your meetings?

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