Why I now love meetings…

Like most people, I used to dread meetings.

 

That was until I met Alex.

Alex joined our company from Google, where Larry Page’s framework for ‘meaningful meetings’ had transformed their effectiveness.

My company needed better meetings desperately, and with Alex’s (well, Larry’s) framework we got just that.

No longer did we have long conversations, meandering between topics, where much of the information discussed was quickly forgotten.

I started to look forward to meetings because I knew how much we would achieve.

Everything I’m going to share in this post is common sense.

I know that. That’s not the point.

The point is that no one ever puts it into practice consistently.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

So rather than reading this and concluding that you’ve learned nothing and the information was obvious, instead print it out and keep it on your desk, using it in every meeting for a month.

Then tell me whether it was useful (if it wasn’t, I would love to hear why!).

So onto Larry’s rules…

  • Every meeting needs a single, clear owner
  • Every meeting needs a purpose and structure
  • No more than 8 participants, but widely circulate after
  • Make sure everyone is fully “present”
  • Adhere to time constraints

How we put this into practice:

Before the Meeting:

Every meeting has an assigned owner.

The meeting owner sends an agenda for the meeting. This will include the Actions each attendee needed to complete from the last meeting, as well as any additional topics to discuss in this meeting.

The owner should always arrive slightly early to make sure any tech is set up (GoToMeetings, Chromecast etc), and to make sure everyone who needs to be at the meeting is there.

During the Meeting

No phones and no laptops allowed. We all know how easy it is to get distracted by email or Slack during a meeting, and meetings quickly become ineffective when attendees aren’t mentally present and engaged.

The owner introduces the different points on the agenda, and keeps an eye on the time. They are also in charge of keeping members on topic.

Another member of the meeting takes notes. These include the discussion as well as the decision. Often when reading notes the discussion can be as informative as the decision that was made.

For recurring meetings this should be a rolling document where each new meeting’s notes are added at the top of the document, so you have one place to reference all discussions on that topic.

Make sure to leave 5 minutes at the end of the meeting to summarise the next steps and who is responsible for each one.

After the Meeting

The best way to keep your meetings effective is to have fewer participants — just those with expertise or decision-making power, even if you know many more people will be interested in the outcome of the meeting.

So to keep meetings small and effective, while also keeping interested parties informed, circulate the notes on email after the meeting.

So maybe you’ve had an Engineering Hiring meeting, and decided to keep it small to make it more effective — just the CEO, Head of Engineering and Head of Product. Then you could circulate the notes around the entire Engineering team after. This encourages employees by demonstrating transparency within the company, while maximising your ability to get things done by keeping the meeting small.

With these simple rules you will:

– Make sure everyone is prepared for meetings beforehand, and engaged during the meeting.

– Everyone is held accountable for their Actions from the meeting before, and knows what they need to complete for the next meeting.

– Attendees and other employees can stay up-to-date with progress and any decisions made that could affect them.

It’s that simple. And it works. You just need to commit to the framework and hold everyone accountable.

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