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Fewer Meetings, More Meaning: How to Hold Meetings that Work

Meetings too often waste valuable time. See the cost of unnecessary meetings and learn how to maximize the value of the meetings you keep.

Meetings can chew up an inordinate part of the workday. While face-to-face discussion can drive information exchange, spark fruitful creativity, and establish priorities, meetings too often waste valuable time.

The cost of unnecessary meetings shows in:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Reduced employee engagement
  • Travel time and costs, if staff members come from off-site
  • Employee performance assessments based on meeting performance rather than actual work
  • A negative perception of the company culture

How do you schedule and conduct effective meetings? Matt Sitler, marketing communications manager for Paychex, curated ideas from top companies. "Speaking with friends in my professional network, I noticed that more and more of our days were being taken up by routine meetings, and the time spent on work and creative exchanges of ideas were being minimized.”

His compilation of best practices shows businesses how to eliminate unnecessary meetings and maximize the impact of those they do hold.

Why to Hold a Meeting

Sitler cites Fred Kofman, vice president at LinkedIn, who says "The only goal for a meeting is 'to decide and commit.'" There's no other rational objective. Kofman says you don't hold meetings to:

  • Discuss
  • Update
  • Review
  • Inform
  • Report
  • Present
  • Check
  • Evaluate
  • Connect
  • Consider
  • Educate

Use meetings only to decide and commit.

"Of course, in order to decide and commit it is necessary to share information, monitor progress, provide updates, review materials, discuss ideas, analyze options, and evaluate costs and benefits," Kofman says. "These are very reasonable ways to spend the time of a meeting. But those are intermediate goals; the final goal is to perform."

Managing Meetings and Meeting Attendance

To get the most out of meetings you lead, Sitler advises companies to heed guidance from Inc., the Harvard Business Review and Forbes. Experts agree that the person calling the meeting should:

  • Set a clear agenda, and follow it.
  • Invite only those who are needed, but notify others on an optional-to-attend basis to provide awareness. Don't send "ego" invitations to burnish your image with higher-ups.
  • Whenever possible, skip the seating. When everyone stands, meetings are quicker, prevent distractions and give speakers a more commanding presence.

Skip the seating. When everyone stands, meetings are quicker and there are fewer distractions.

On the attendance side, nearly all employees in any given company could benefit by reducing the number of meeting invitations they accept. To determine whether to attend a meeting, ask yourself:

  • Is this meeting a team priority?
  • Is this my priority?
  • Is a meeting the best solution?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, go to the meeting.

Keep in mind that a poor reason to show up at a meeting is to boost your image. Meeting attendance shouldn't be viewed as a popularity contest. If you don't really need to be at the table, decline the invitation.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Most people don’t like long meetings, and they aren't necessarily productive. Sitler reminds businesses to recognize that meetings come with a cost. By figuring the hourly rate of each participant in a given meeting, you'll learn the dollar value of a one-hour discussion.

Sticking to an agenda, keeping attendees focused on the topic at hand, and standing up are methods to keep meetings efficient and effective. You want a company reputation built on productivity and efficacy, so keep meetings to a minimum. Use them appropriately to move the business forward.


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This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.

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