A few weeks ago, I wrote about the unwritten rules of email, and I was blown away at how many people found it helpful. Turns out, there are a lot of rules out there that we could all benefit from getting on paper!
With that in mind, I'll be doing a few more of those lists, starting with the second biggest office pain point: meetings. Read on for the must-know rules of how to run a successful meeting, and colleagues everywhere will thank you.
Make sure you really need a meeting before scheduling it. Could this be resolved by 10 minutes on the phone or via email instead?
Every meeting should have a purpose: You either need to make a decision or complete an action together. Giving an update can almost always happen by email.
Do not schedule more time than you need. Most meetings are scheduled for a full hour, when they should be 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes—max.
Start on time. Don’t wait for stragglers—it only encourages them.
End on time. Saying, “I know we’ve all got a lot to do, so let’s try and keep this under 30 minutes,” will remind people that you want an efficient meeting just as much as they do.
Only invite the people who absolutely need to be there. The more people in a meeting, the less that gets done.
Every meeting should have someone clearly assigned ahead of time to running it. If it’s not you, name someone else (and make sure that person knows he or she’s in charge).
Bake in a few minutes for chit-chat at the beginning of the meeting. We are people, not robots, and building rapport with colleagues helps business run more smoothly.
If you want people to read something ahead of time, sending it at least three hours ahead of time is good, and the day before is better. Sending it 20 minutes before is useless.
Book your meeting space ahead of time, or give yourself 10 minutes before the meeting to figure it out. Wandering the halls with everyone in tow is wasting everyone's time.
Set an agenda, and share it at the beginning of the meeting to keep everyone on track.
If you want people to pay attention, don't give them several handouts at the beginning of the meeting. They'll start flipping through them, and they’ll be distracted.
Do not check your phone or email during the meeting. Everyone can tell what you’re doing, and they’ll start doing the same.
Keep track of next steps as the meeting goes on. Any action items should be sent around as a reminder after the meeting.
An action item without someone assigned to it is worthless. In most cases, a deadline is needed as well.
If someone is speaking too much, cut him or her off (nicely). Likewise, if someone is speaking too little, try to engage him or her.
If the conversation goes off topic, it is both acceptable and necessary for you to rein it in. A simple, "Let's schedule time to discuss that later if it's helpful, since we only have 10 minutes left," works perfectly.
If the meeting is over an hour long, schedule time for breaks, and let attendees know about them ahead of time. Knowing they can check their email in 45 minutes will help keep them focused now.
Watch body language. You can easily tell if people are bored, disengaged, or feel like their time is being wasted, so long as you look for it.
If needed, assign a note-taker, so that you can focus on running the meeting.
Regularly assess if recurring meetings in your calendar are needed at all, and if so, if the format, length, and attendees are contributing to their effectiveness. If not? Change ’em up!
Tell us! What's your favorite meeting rule? Any that we missed?