Ten simple ways to make meetings more effective

Person taking notes on a to do list

As an engineer, I tend to cringe anytime I see a meeting request. As a team leader, I understand the need for them. Rather than eradicating meetings, we can make them more effective for everyone involved by adopting a few simple practices.

One caveat and preamble I’ll provide before we get into the practices is that there are situations when ad-hoc conversations need to happen spontaneously; these are very valuable. The following practices’ goal is not to diminish important conversations but instead to make meetings more effective for everyone involved.

  1. Provide a meeting agenda when scheduling. This helps everyone involved come prepared. See below for more on meeting agendas. Define a goal for the meeting, consider ending the meeting early if the goal is met.
  2. Send all documentation, proposals, stories, and reading materials at least 24 hours ahead of the meeting. This will ensure everyone comes prepared to contribute.
  3. Start & end meetings on time. Respect everyone’s time by starting meetings on time. Don’t go over time. If you are 25 minutes into a 30-minute meeting, consider re-scheduling instead of going over and making everyone late to their other commitments.
  4. Appreciate smaller groups. If you find yourself about to schedule a meeting with several people, consider scheduling a meeting with fewer people instead to flesh out preliminary ideas. This will help you have more of the items listed in item two on this list. This will make the meeting and project more successful.
  5. Send out meeting notes. Take notes and send them out to all participants. This helps everyone stay organized and increases the meeting’s value. These notes ideally drive your action items.
  6. Define expectations for the meeting ahead of time. If this is a no-laptop meeting or a white-boarding session, let the participants know ahead of time.
  7. Be mindful of remote participants. It is beneficial to speak up and mind the location of the microphone. Use Ethernet whenever possible. Remember to ask remote participants every so often if they’d like to add anything. Feel free to call on people; they won’t mind. Also, Be mindful of time zones. A 4:00 PM meeting in San Francisco is 7:00 PM in New York.
  8. Be mindful of the maker vs. manager schedule. Ask yourself, is this meeting necessary, or am I using others to flesh out my preliminary ideas?
  9. Discuss with the organizer before adding additional attendees. Although well-intended oftentimes, additional attendees may not make the most sense.
  10. Help retain technical clarity. When fleshing out technical details with an engineer, ensure the same engineer joins subsequent meetings on the same topic. This will help aid against loss of technical information.

I hope these help make meetings more fruitful for everyone involved.

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