Before planning your next meeting.

Four people together with one in the foreground with a speech bubble. They are having a meeting.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

People spend a lot of time in meetings, and generally wish we had fewer of them. Before you schedule your next meeting, answer these four questions.

Why are we meeting?

Sometimes, we meet so that we can complete tasks. Often, building in time to complete required surveys, process data, or manage cases is much more efficient than expecting staff to do this kind of work individually.

Usually, though, meetings serve as mile markers between the work. With strong facilitation skills, bringing people together to review assigned tasks, and to make decisions about how the work will continue can be a great use of people’s time.  However, if you’re planning for your meeting, and you begin to realize that the only purpose to meet is to tell everyone something, this is be a great time to write a concise email instead.

How much time will we need? 

This data is not scientific, but in my experience participating in and facilitating many meetings, every minute a meeting ends early increases staff satisfaction by 10%. And, every minute a meeting runs over increases overall annoyance level by 1,000%. As you create your agenda, estimate how much time you’ll really need. Often, meetings get scheduled for 60, 90, or 120 minutes mainly because that’s how long they’ve always been. Consider whether you can get the same amount of work done in less time with better time management.

Here is an example of a spreadsheet that I often use to budget time for meetings.

Who is in charge of following up on tasks?

During your meeting, different tasks will come up. Make sure that you have a place on your agenda for tracking who is supposed to do what and by when. ‘Level up your task list’ by tracking and reviewing tasks at the beginning of your meeting.

Often, teams assume that the person with position and authority is the one to follow up on tasks. Something, it’s better for someone else to track and follow up on tasks. When team members know what they’re supposed to do, tasks get done—especially when teams begin meetings by reviewing tasks at the beginning of the meeting.

What is the agenda?

Ideally, your agenda templates answers these questions. Try to keep the format of your agendas consistent. This not only makes your planning easier group to group, but also simplifies the work for your team.

Here is a template that tends to work for me. Feel free to use this agenda format at your next meeting. And, if you’re not the one in charge of the meeting, here are some strategies for making sure someone makes an agenda.

Accomplishing goals together feels amazing, and meetings can be a powerful tool for collaboration. Think through these four questions before your next meeting and enjoy that feeling! If you’d like to learn more, click here to schedule a time to talk.

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