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How To Make Meetings Stink Less

Recently Harvard Business School professor Nancy Koehn talked to NPR's Marketplace about ineffective meetings. The estimates she cited include:

- 11 million meetings every day in the U.S.
- That means 4 billion a year.
- Over 50% of people surveyed said that half the meetings they attend are unproductive.
- That’s 2 billion ineffective meetings.

Want more depressing stats? How would you like to throw away $37 billion right in the trash. That's how much unnecessary meetings costs businesses every year according the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. And most meetings, two-thirds of them to be precise, end before decisions are reached.

So how do we make meetings more productive? We are probably never going to eagerly LOVE going to meetings - but there are some things, best practices, we can do to make them stink less. Here are a few:

  • Cancel meetings that you shouldn't have. There are probably a lot of meeting you have scheduled, that don't need to take place. Audit your meetings. Which ones can you stop doing?
  • Start with an agenda. People should never come unprepared or face any surprises when they show up. If there is any preparation that needs to be done, everyone needs to do their homework.
  • Make sure only the people that need to be at the meeting are there. Don't fill the room and meeting with people that have no stake in the issue. Too many meetings are called to just inform people..those are often a waste of time. If people need to be informed, they don't need to be at the meeting, just email them an overview of what was discussed and decided.
  • Start on time/end on time
  • Focus on the topic at hand. Keep the conversations on track. Avoid distractions and diversions.
  • Clear follow-up and action steps are necessary. Everyone must walk out of the room with a clear understanding of who is responsible for what and when does it need to be accomplished. Without clear accountability, any momentum or forward motion from the meeting will be lost. 


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