3 Steps to Streamline Meetings

Meetings are one of the biggest time wasters at work. Despite their importance to decision making, these get-togethers rarely drive effective outcomes. As Jason Shah, the CEO of Do.com shares, meetings “are plagued by a ton of systematic problems that have, unfortunately, become the standard across the board.”

Here are three tips that can streamline your meetings and strengthen their impact on your organization:

  1. Prioritize Your Agenda

A lot of leaders overestimate the number of topics they can tackle in a meeting. Too many issues can diffuse the power of a conversation, limiting the ability of a team to create consensus and make meaningful progress.

Doug Sundheim, a leadership and strategy consultant, suggests in the Harvard Business Review that the most important work in a meeting takes place before the actual event. Thorough research should lead to a strategic perspective on a problem or challenge. “The meeting can be used to critique, debate, or expand a strategic point of view. But a strategic meeting should never be used to create a strategic point of view. It’s simply too hard to do this in real time with a lot of people,” says Sundheim.

Doug Sundheim also suggests that leaders limit strategic meetings to between seven and 10 people — if you have a bigger group, split them into smaller teams and compare the insights of each group at a later time.

  1. Cut Hour-Long Meetings in Half

One hour meetings are the standard practice in the business world, but are they the most effective approach? Not necessarily. Peter Bregman advocates for cutting meetings in half in Harvard Business Review. He argues that the limited time commitment increases participation, engagement, and efficiency.

“People also listen better because, when things are moving faster, we tend to be more alert… And, since that keeps us more engaged, we end up having more fun in the process,” says Bregman.

  1. Sum it Up

Business leaders can maximize the impact of the meeting by expressing shared consensus in the last five minutes. Bregman argues that, during this time, you should “summarize what you learned, articulate what was valuable, commit to what you are going to do as a result of the meeting, and clarify how you will assess the success of your next steps.” When walking through these steps, assign tasks to individuals rather than groups to increase accountability. Most importantly, always end on time.

These three steps can transform meetings from missed opportunities for collaboration into profitable, productive collaborations across groups.