When people hear the word ‘meeting,’ something strange happens. Their eyes roll, they sigh heavily, and a general expression of unpleasantness falls over their faces.
That’s because more often than not, meetings suck up a lot of time while providing little value. The feeling is nation-wide: People are now selling ribbons that say, “I survived another meeting that should have been an email.”
The numbers prove this general sentiment, too. One study found that 73% of professionals did unrelated work during a meeting, and 39% fell asleep during them.
But despite the bad reputation there are some meetings that will give your business real value, and that can’t be done via email or Slack conversation.
Who: You and your sales and marketing team.
How Often: Twice a month (minimum)
You and your sales team need to be on the same page about what’s coming in (and what isn’t). Typically, this means getting together to review your sales pipeline report and discussing what’s working for lead generation, what’s stuck in the sales pipeline, what’s coming, and where your sales team needs support. Regularly reviewing this report will help keep everyone accountable and supplied with the tools they need to keep the business thriving. Plus you’ll be better prepared to predict when you need more people and how your cash flow looks!
Who: You and your senior leadership team
How Often: Monthly, once last month’s numbers are final
You don’t have to be a whiz with numbers to have a regular financial meeting that paints a realistic picture of your business. During this (at least) monthly meeting, you’ll want to review your income statement, look at the benchmark ratios for things like margin and receivables, and review trends (like how your income compares month-over-month, year-over-year), and projections for what you can expect for the rest of the year. It also gives you a chance to raise the financial literacy of your whole team so that their decisions are informed by your financial performance.
Weekly KPI Review
Who: You and the department heads
Accountability improves when a team meets on a weekly basis to update key performance indicators—those hard numbers that illustrate the state of your business. In no more than an hour, your team can come together and not only look at the state of the numbers, but also discuss current challenges that may impact the business as a whole.
This is also the time to discuss the 3-4 most important and pressing issues facing the business. Talk about upcoming deadlines, roadblocks you’re facing, and allow time for questions so your team members can bring their concerns to the table. At the end of this meeting, each person should leave with a clear to-do list that needs to be completed before the next week’s meeting.
Monthly Overview with Leadership
Who: You and your senior leadership team
When: Monthly (not at the same time as the financial review)
Regular team meetings are great for staying on top of the daily details, but you and your leadership team also need to schedule some time to think big-picture about long-term goals, general team performance, and reports on a month-on-month level.
These types of meetings often get pushed to the side, and can result in the business getting way off course. Be deliberate about these meetings aimed at abstract thinking and set a time each month that your leadership comes together to anticipate future change and goals.
Meeting Must-Haves and Menaces
Since we are committed to having meetings, how do we make them worthwhile?
It’s a good idea to have a few boundaries that keep things highly constructive. Productive meetings institute ground rules that keep people alert and present. These requests are small, but make a big impact on the success of your time together.
- Process Cop
Having a person responsible for keeping the conversation on-track helps means less wasted time. This can be a rotating role, but the person needs to feel comfortable with keeping tangents at bay.
While you don’t need to keep minutes for every meeting, it’s a good idea to have a master list-maker who keeps track of the business to-do list (so nothing falls through the cracks.)
- Time Limits
Putting a hard stop to meetings at a certain time helps ensure you stay focused and work through topics efficiently. This also lets your team members plan their days more effectively, rather than having to leave entire days open for meetings that can run long.
Formalized slide-deck presentations eliminate the possibility of conversation because they create a classroom feeling, in which information is presented in a one-way format. Plus, with the lights dimmed, you’re inviting your meeting goers to snooze.
We’re all guilty of checking our phones when we shouldn’t be—especially in meetings. Making your meeting attendees’ pile up their distracting devices before the meeting begins is one way to get everyone committed to being present. If attendees are using a device for notes, make sure airplane mode is on.
- The Office Phone
An endlessly ringing office phone can be a big distraction as far as noise goes—but also means someone is constantly breaking the meeting’s flow to get up and answer it. Assign someone to man the phone during meeting time, or put it on DND if the meeting is a short one.
But there’s one meeting that I see too much of, one meeting that is a productivity killer, one meeting that if allowed to flourish will take away all the productivity from the other meetings by sheer boredom…
It’s the status meeting.
Ditching the Status Meeting
Status meetings are typically round-tables during which team members explain what they’re working on. And that’s it. There’s no discussion of these projects during these meetings—it’s one of those that should really just be an email.
Post-status meetings, no one walks away with anything valuable. It’s really more for the benefit of the boss, who wants to keep tabs on what people are doing. It wastes the time of 90% of the people in the meeting for the benefit of the boss who’s too lazy to keep track of things in another way. Skip it. Stomp it out. Make it go away crying…(and try the Flash Report instead.)
Meetings Should be Time Well Spent
Is there a time and place for regular meetings? Of course! The thing to remember is that meetings have to have a solid purpose.
If you feel like something would be more easily accomplished in an email—go with your gut. Save the more formalized get-togethers for the times you have a solid agenda planned, when you need group feedback and interaction, and when there are tangible results to be derived from everyone’s time being spent in that conference room.