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Seven tips to make meetings more efficient, by David S. Allen

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A hundred years from now, when archeologists are digging through the remains of our office buildings, they will find what’s left of conference rooms. Like remnants of conference room tables and chairs. Having discovered this stuff, they will likely reach a conclusion:

“People way back in the first part of the 21st century gathered so often for meetings that dedicated meeting rooms seem to have been required—rooms in which nothing happened but meetings.”

Key phrase: nothing happened.

I’m on a quest to change the world, one needless “nothing happened” meeting at a time. If you have ever suffered through such a meeting and silently asked yourself “Why am I here?,” I invite you to join me.

Until we reach that glorious day, there are some things we can do now to at least make meetings better.

  1. Ask: “Why do we need to meet?” Meetings are expensive. They pull people away from their jobs and interrupt productivity. Make sure there are clear reasons to hold an expensive meeting.
  2. Establish objectives before the meeting. It may sound like extra work but this one step will make your meetings much more efficient.
  3. Based on the objectives, determine who should be invited to and participate in the meeting. Keep the invitation list as small as possible.  
  4. Using the objectives, assign responsibilities days or at least hours before the meeting. Who will do what for the meeting? Who will bring what?
  5. Have an agenda, at least for the meeting leader. Assign times for agenda items. Stick to the agenda. Start on time. End on time.
  6. Begin the meeting with a quick review of why you are meeting. “We are here to…”
  7. Leave 3-5 minutes at the end to summarize what was decided and review action steps.