03 11 / 2011

I wrote this a while back and worked on it for a few months, getting input and adding more “rules” as time went on. The goal here is to stop wasting time in meetings. I think it is important to get face-to-face but not if everyone is going to screw around during the meeting or deliver nothing after it is over. I think these rules apply anywhere and not just in the tech industry. Please pass this on.

  1. Create an agenda
    1. These are the only topics to be discussed during the scheduled time so make sure it is complete.
    2. This MUST be sent in the meeting invite. If your invite doesn’t have one, ask for it.
  2. Schedule your attendees and resource rooms properly
    1. Generally, it is not OK to send a meeting invite for a meeting on the same day. Please give at least 24 hours notice.
    2. If you do not schedule the room properly, you may not have actually reserved it. Do yourself a favor and double check.
    3. Choose the the correct attendees. Don’t invite 2 people to represent the same information.
    4. Meetings for 4 or more are proven to be less productive than those with fewer invitees. If you need 4 people, you are probably attempting to do too much and need to break it up - some leg-work needs to be done ahead of time. If you are pulling in 5% of the employees, you are impacting the overall company. Please keep that in mind.
  3. Be on time
    1. Be early even. Plan to stay for the whole thing.
    2. If you can not make the proposed time, you must decline the meeting, send someone in your place or propose a new time.
  4. Take notes
    1. Everyone should take their own notes.
    2. If necessary, someone should be designated as the notes-taker. This person is required to take detailed notes and share them with the other participants shortly after the meeting has concluded.
  5. Stay on topic
    1. If it’s not on the agenda, it’s not a topic of discussion for the meeting.
    2. If a new topic is necessary, it should be “parked” and, if time permits, revisited at the end of the meeting. Otherwise, it should be taken off-line as an email thread or follow-up meeting.
  6. Review what was discussed
    1. The meeting organizer should review what was discussed according to the agenda.
    2. The meeting organizer or designate should assign action items with due dates (to 1 owner).
    3. This way, everyone leaves with the same understanding.
    4. A follow-up meeting can be scheduled at this time.
  7. Conference Call Etiquette
    1. Announce yourself after joining the meeting.
    2. Please mute when not speaking, it makes the overall call quality better for everyone.
    3. Do not put the bridge on hold, it plays hold music for everyone.

Also:

Ask yourself, is this meeting necessary? Could you gather the necessary info via an email thread? Maybe on a wiki page that everyone could collaborate on? If yes, please do so and free up valuable time for everyone else.

Laptops: A lot of people feel that laptops should not be allowed in meetings. I find them to be very useful for pulling up information that will help answer questions and solve problems quickly. If you can’t trust yourself to not surf Reddit while in a meeting because you brought your laptop, don’t bring it. I have taken to bringing a plant-based notebook to meetings to help me focus.

Short of telling you not to go to meetings without an agenda, I can tell you that if you get an invite for a meeting without one, be sure to ask for one and don’t accept the invite until you get it.

Finally, all of the above can be overruled in the interest of time and productivity but be careful, that’s a slippery slope.