How To Stop Hemorrhaging Time In Agenda-Less Meetings
Ever been to a meeting without an agenda? (Oh, you’ve been to lots?)
How did it go? Was it a waste of time? Did it feel meandering? Was the result that you need to have another meeting?
Without an agenda, this is often the case. Yet, you’d be surprised (or maybe not) about how many meetings are held without agendas.
If creating an agenda sounds like too much work, then I want to share an easy, low-effort way to create one so your meetings aren’t time wasters.
And all you have to remember is this: The 3 Ps — Purpose, People, Prep.
Let’s break it down:
What’s the purpose of this meeting? Is it a discussion meeting? Or a decision meeting? What’s the goal? What are you trying to accomplish in the time allotted?
This can be as simple as one sentence. (Or there may be several one-sentence agenda items to discuss or decide.)
But, if the purpose is “status update” or “info sharing”, then you know what? This doesn’t have to be a meeting at all. There’s no reason to take people’s synchronous time if you’re simply sharing information. There are much more efficient ways to do that: email, Slack, document, video, etc.
Who needs to be at the meeting? Meetings are expensive in terms of time, and human resources. Almost everyone has too many meetings on their calendars. In fact, a recent study showed that meetings are up 250% since before the pandemic. Seriously.
So, how do you decide who needs to be invited? Well, each person should have a unique, differentiated, and necessary role that is required to enact the purpose (see above). This means we’re not going to invite people just to be nice. And we’re not going to invite people who are just there to listen. If there’s info in the meeting that needs to be disseminated, that can be done asynchronously afterwards in the form of meeting notes, or you can record the meeting and send out the recording.
Every day, I hear some version of the following from my clients:
“There are 40 people in this meeting; I just need to logon to show that I’m there so my boss sees me. I’m usually just half listening while I do other work.”
Does this seem like a good use of anyone’s time? No!
One of my clients had a great way of putting this. She said: “Unless I’m both contributing AND learning (or giving AND gaining), I shouldn’t be in this meeting.”
Is there any prep that folks need to do before attending the meeting? Are there any pre-reads?
In order to make the best use of synchronous time, everyone should be up to speed before the meeting starts, so that the meeting participants can discuss and make decisions regarding the meeting’s purpose.
If there is pre-work, then send it out at least a day or 2 before the meeting, preferably more. If you send it out last minute, not only will people not have time to digest it, they’ll feel bad about it. And you don’t want to put people in that position.
And that’s it. Remember the 3 Ps and not only will you have better meeting hygiene, fewer meetings and more time to do your actual work, you’ll also have a meeting agenda ready to go, every time. And it won’t take you a lot of time or effort.
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Originally published at https://www.alexishaselberger.com on May 2, 2022.