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4 Easy Rules to Make Your Next Business Meeting Not Suck

by Jennie Hopkins
4 Easy Rules to Make Your Next Business Meeting Not Suck

Hey, man, I just wanted to touch base real quick and go over a few things about the venue change. What about a quick business meeting, lets say Friday afternoon at 4?

Uuuuuuuuuuugh.

Meetings suck. They’re necessary and useful, but they suck. To make sure you’re keeping a good useful-to-suck ratio, here are some tips for the next business meeting you call.

Short. For the love of all that is Holy… keep it short

Game of Thrones averaged a gross audience of around 18.4 million viewers. The HBO show has become one of the most popular of all time. It was crammed with mythical worlds, dragons, blood, guts, a dwarf and the occasional rape. How long did each episode last? One hour.

If people are willing to devote just one hour to something so interesting, what makes anyone think a lowly business meeting should stretch out to two or three hours? Unless your agenda concerns complicated political intrigue and rabid sexual encounters, you probably don’t need more than an hour.


Prep

There should be a special circle in hell for those who call a business meeting and then fritter away the first 15 meetings nattering about how everyone's weekend was and what kind of flowers to get for Barbara when she gets out of the hospital.

Everyone should come into the meeting knowing exactly what’s going to happen, and what they need to specifically do. Before it even starts, everyone should know who’s leading/moderating and what action steps they need to leave with before it’s done.


Be focused

If you’re going to be talking about things instead of doing those things, at least be systematic about it. Ban smartphones and other devices from the meeting (yes, you can use the “Sorry I was in a business meeting” excuse when it’s actually true). Make it mandatory. And don’t invite people who don’t truly need to be there.

If you call a virtual meeting, mute those that aren't talking… until it's their turn.

Cut out all distractions – the coffee and snacks should be ready, the door should be closed and nobody should be expecting any extra-ultra-urgent calls during that time.


You could always just not

Meetings can be enormous time-sinks. It’s very hard to get people to stick to the topic, stay focused and actually come out the end of it having done something useful – with more people, it gets even worse. So, only have a business meeting when you’re absolutely sure you need one.

Can the issue be resolved via email or a quick call to the relevant people?

Many businesses have weekly meetings but nothing’s stopping you from cancelling one week just because you have nothing to justify the waste of time. If you scheduled an hour and you’re done in 40 minutes, end it.


Meetings have a bad rep for a reason. Even in the best of cases, a meeting isn’t work, it isn’t fun and it isn’t Game of Thrones. My personal feeling is that the only good meeting is no meeting. But in the event that all the communication technology surrounding everyone all the time is not sufficient for the important message you need to share, call a meeting and do it right.

How often do you call meetings? How long do yours last?

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