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Organizational Excellence

Timesaver Toolkit for Meetings

If you're swamped with too many meetings that take too much time, this toolkit is for you. It's filled with tips to make better use of meeting time – and free up time for everything else.

Start with these best practices:

First and foremost, be clear on the purpose. If you don't know exactly WHY you're meeting, don't have the meeting.

Define the intended outcomes. Know WHAT is to be accomplished or created by the end of the meeting. 

Involve the right people. Invite individuals who are essential to the meeting's purpose. Too many attendees will make the meeting unwieldy and less productive.

Think through an ideal flow for the meeting, and develop a brief agenda with time blocks for  topics. Include purpose and outcomes.

Get everyone on the same page in advance. Send the agenda and any needed pre-meeting materials to all participants.

Don't skip the prep work. Some quick advance planning (to think through purpose, outcomes, participants, agenda, etc.) can make the difference between a productive session and an aimless waste of time. (See the section directly above for key prep steps.)

Don't have a meeting just to circulate information. Share it by email or Teams or some other way – and you'll save everyone a lot of time.

Don't overload the agenda. Be realistic about what can be accomplished in the allocated time.

Don't let meetings run over. If you can't cover the whole agenda in the scheduled time frame, end on time and deal with the fact that you won't get everything done. (Learn from the experience, and build your future agendas and pacing accordingly.)

Establish a few key ground rules at the start. They can help set the tone and expectations for productive and respectful communication, collaboration, and decision-making. (They're especially important for groups that meet regularly.)

Stay focused yet flexible. There are times in meetings when digressions are worthwhile and when certain issues should move up in priority. But if someone is headed down a rabbit hole for an extended period of time, politely refer back to the agenda and get the meeting back on track.

Be merciful to people who often have back-to-back meetings. Instead of scheduling meetings to end on the hour or half hour, build in 10 minutes of cushion – with meetings ending at 20 minutes or 50 minutes after the hour.

Uncover ways to make future meetings better. At the end of key meetings, take a minute to have people cite what went well during the session, what could’ve gone better, and what should be done differently the next time around. Commit to one or two improvements.

Say no to irrelevant meetings. Some  are non-negotiable, but other times, you can politely take a pass. This especially applies to meetings where you won't miss anything and your input won’t be needed. You can put the saved time to better use.

Take a few minutes to prep. Before a meeting, review the agenda and any relevant materials so you're well-informed going in.

Be engaged in meetings. Speak up with your ideas, listen and absorb when others talk, and ask questions to clear up any confusion.

Help to keep meetings on track. If you're in a meeting that starts going sideways, and you're reasonably comfortable stepping in to bring it back to the agenda, please do so.

Try some candid self-reflection. Do you multi-task during meetings? Do you sometimes go on and on talking? Do you hold back when you have something important to say? Are you listening to understand, or are you simply gathering enough info to frame your counterpoint? Honest answers might reveal things you can do differently in future meetings.

Meeting Purpose

Most meetings fit into five categories based on the meeting purpose.
Click below for practical tips, sample agendas, and more.Down arrow

Meetings to INFORMShare information (low engagement)

Meetings to COORDINATECoordinate activities (medium engagement)

Meetings to CREATECreate something (high engagement)

Meetings to MAKE DECISIONSMake a decision (high engagement)

Meetings to SOLVE a problemSolve a problem (high engagement)

  Low engagement = 1-way flow of information
  Medium engagement = Exchange of information
  High engagement = Active involvement of all meeting participants

Organizational Excellence

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.