Is this meeting really necessary?

Best practices for effective meetings


How often have you heard (or said): “Is this meeting really necessary?”, “Do I have to attend?” or “This meeting was really boring, I am not sure I will attend next week”


And yet meetings are a necessity for all entities, and should not be avoided.


There are however good practices that can help reduce this feeling of “wasted time”.


Shorter meetings


Meetings seem to be set for a minimum duration of one hour, and then in multiples of this initial hour (2 hours, 3 hours, etc).


The first step to more efficient meetings is to challenge their duration. One hour is a long period of time, and although this duration may be necessary on certain occasions, it might not be relevant to most meetings.


Indeed, having one hour ahead of us to discuss a subject often comes with a lot of inefficiencies, longer than necessary discussions and  loss of momentum.


A 15-minute (or 30-minute for meetings covering different topics) duration should be sufficient for most meetings: with the caveat that they have to be well prepared in advance, focused and to the point.


One last tip to increase attendance in the long run: always start on time and finish on time. 


Prepared meetings


A good meeting is a prepared meeting. The person chairing the meeting should properly prepare the meeting:

  • Identify the purpose of the meeting
  • Make sure a meeting is really necessary
  • Develop the agenda and send it to participants
  • Select right participants and assign roles
  • Send pre-reading or request in case of advance preparation required
  • Choose decision-making process (vote, consensus, leader’s choice)
  • Arrange and test any required equipment in advance
  • Prepare presentation, printed handouts if necessary, etc


It is better not to meet if you do not have time to prepare or if some preliminary work needs to be done (solicit the opinion of a number of individuals, gather preliminary data or information, etc).


We also cannot stress enough the fact that preparing a meeting is not the sole responsibility of the chair person. 


All participants should prepare it by reading the material sent, noting down their ideas on the subject matter, do research in advance and take their own notes and action list during the meeting. Every participant should take an active role in the meeting.


Written and shared action list


At the end of the meeting, there should be a clear action list with responsible persons and agreed deadlines


The action list should be put in writing and distributed to all meeting participants after the meeting.


Archive also all documents such as agenda, minutes of meetings, list of actions, supporting documents.


Each action will also need to be followed up, in order to ensure completion.


Monitoring measures


Even once critical improvements on meetings have been implemented, it is important to monitor a few performance indicators: attendance level, punctuality, participation, efficiency, and completion of actions.


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