A Good Meeting

How long since you have been in a bad meeting? A week? A day? An hour? Unfortunately it is really, really easy to botch a meeting, to make it the worst part of any given day for a whole group of people. Fortunately it is also not that hard to make it a positive and productive experience.

A good meeting is necessary. There are plenty of meetings that should have been an e-mail, a phone call or a Slack-message. Before calling in five people from three departments to an hour long exercise in unstructured boredom, think long and hard: Is a meeting the right approach?

A good meeting has a goal. A goal that can be solved by bringing together a group of people for a limited amount of time. A good goal can be written down in one sentence, it might help to state it at the start of a meeting. If goals diverge or even conflict, clarify.

A good meeting has a written agenda. To make sure you understood the goal and to ensure everybody else understood it as well. The agenda is your map towards reaching your goal. It breaks it down into manageable pieces to be clarified one by one. Last but not least it provides a structure for documentation.

A good meeting has time boxes. Time boxes help, they help you get to the point, they help you realize you are off the point and most importantly they remind you and everybody else in the room that you are using a most precious resource: Other people’s time.

A good meeting has prepared participants. That’s why you send the agenda beforehand, so everybody can prepare. If you do not need prepared participants, maybe you do not need a meeting. Make sure everybody understands what he is expected to contribute before the meeting.

A good meeting has a moderator. Rarely, rarely does a group or organize itself. Somebody has to take it upon them to do the agenda, the time boxes, the notes, the gentle shutting up of people that contribute too much, the tickling and charming of people that contribute too little.

A good meeting has next steps. Rarely, rarely a meeting is an end, it is often a kick off, a passing step, a break through on a longer endeavor. There was a goal, a reason, a problem that prompted this meeting and made it a necessary step in some process, now the meeting needs to feed back into that process, via next steps.

Making the next steps (just) another meeting is usually a bad sign.