A Checklist for Taking Your Meeting from a Waste of Time to Worth the Time

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Many people believe that meetings waste a large portion of the work day. This checklist describes proven techniques to make your meetings productive. Compare a proposed meeting to this checklist. If you cannot check all of these boxes, the meeting may, at best, be a lost opportunity to make full use of knowledge and skills of the participants and, at worst, could be a costly waste of time.

Meeting Goals

  • The meeting agenda explicitly identifies the goal(s) of the meeting.
  • Each goal is stated in a way that it is possible for the participants to judge whether or not the goal was accomplished at the end of the meeting.
  • The goals justify having a meeting. The goals cannot just as easily accomplished by an email, video, etc.

Meeting Roles

  • There is a clear leader for the meeting.
  • There is someone to record important decisions reached at the meeting. This is a different person from the leader, if it is a big meeting.
  • There is a coordinator for the meeting to handle logistics. This is a separate person from the leader, if it is a big meeting.
  • Any participant who has a specific task to perform at the meeting knows their task and the time limit.
  • Participants who may not be instrumental to achieving the goal are told their participation is optional, so they can opt out if they feel their time is better used elsewhere.
  • The agenda has been structured so that participants with an important but limited role can attend just for the agenda items that are relevant to them.

Ensuring a Productive Meeting

  • Materials participants are expected to review ahead of time are succinct and in a format the people are likely to actually read/view/listen to ahead of time.
  • The meeting agenda and supporting materials are sent to participants at least 24 hours in advance.
  • The agenda minimizes or eliminates time spent reviewing/presenting supporting materials.
  • The agenda maximizes time spent doing “real work” in service of the goals of the meeting.
  • There is a clear start and stop time for each agenda item.

Scheduling the Meeting

  • The meeting does not infringe on any agreed upon “meeting-free” zones of time.
  • The meeting is scheduled as close as possible to the beginning or end of the day, lunch, or some other natural breakpoint in individual worktime to avoid interrupting individual worktime.