You look at your calendar, and you see it — that meeting, the one where people talk but nothing gets done. How can you identify and eliminate useless meetings from your schedule?
Here are some expert tips:
Identify each meeting’s purpose
It can help to examine and weigh every meeting on your calendar individually, says Heinz Marketing President Matt Heinz. Consider what purpose each meeting serves: “What is the objective of the meeting? What’s the expected outcome? Do people need to be in a room together to achieve that outcome? If so, which people precisely?”
“This is particularly important for ‘standing meetings,’ which can take on lives of their own and easily consume significant staff time,” says Linda Pophal of Strategic Communications. “Since time equals money, and time spent in meetings is time that is not being spent doing something else, this can have a double negative impact on organizations if not well managed.”
Get serious about outcomes
Heinz also suggests you ensure you aren’t using meetings to get work done without putting forth too much effort. “Some meetings are incredibly useful, but too often we schedule a meeting as a lazy way of getting work done when in fact the outcome can be generated with far less resources tied up, distracted and pulled away from more important priorities.” Before scheduling that meeting, see if you can get results a different way, he advises.
If it’s unnecessary, cancel it
It can be difficult to eliminate a meeting, but Heinz says you have to “rip the Band-Aid off.” There may be people who object; when they do, he recommends you direct them to the meeting’s objective instead of the meeting itself.
“If the objective can be achieved in a different way, more efficiently, with fewer resources tied up, that works for everybody,” he says. “We’ve all worked with people who apparently just go to meetings for a living. Are they really very effective? Are they getting things done? Are they respecting the time of those they require to sit in those meetings with them?”
Frame it as a time issue
If your boss is the one putting together unnecessary meetings, try a tactful approach, Pophal says. “If you regularly evaluate your own meetings and share those results with others that can be a good way to model and coach the importance of doing these assessment.”
Another tactful way to approach another meeting leader when time being spent does not seem to be worthwhile would be to arrange to get together for coffee or lunch and broach the subject by saying something like: ‘I’m so impressed by the amount of work and projects you handle. And you spend so much time in meetings. You know, I was thinking about our XYZ meeting and wondering if there might be other ways to tackle this issue that wouldn’t take up so much of your time.’” Putting the focus on their needs and schedules can help open the discussion, she says.
Make the meetings you must have matter
There will still be meetings you have to have. Carlos and Dee Zorea of Zorea Consulting say the meetings you still have need to be healthy ones. Good managers need to manage their time better, cancel meetings when participants aren’t prepared, empower participants so they feel comfortable contributing and run effective meetings.