5 Tricks for Running Effective Meetings

Make each minute count during your next business meeting by applying these simple rules.

We’ve all heard the adage, “time is money.” In today’s workplace, every minute counts. Unfortunately for many professionals, too many of those minutes are spent sitting in long, drawn-out meetings where little is accomplished. In fact, in its annual Wasting Time at Work Survey,” Salary.com reported that 26 percent of respondents said the biggest overall time-wasting activity was having too many meetings and conference calls.

Yet Patrick Lencioni, author of the best-seller ” Death by Meeting,” believes that meetings aren’t inherently bad. Lencioni argues that when meetings are given the proper context and purpose, they can become meaningful, engaging and relevant activities in the workplace.

Below are a few tips to turn your most painful meetings into productive gatherings:

Establish clear goals

It’s important that everyone invited to the meeting understands its purpose. Include a one-sentence blurb in your invitation that clarifies what the meeting is about and what will be discussed so everyone is on the same page. When appropriate, create an agenda – and stick to it. When you set clear expectations, it’s easier to keep the conversation on track and within the allotted time.

Keep your attendee list lean

Take a page from some of the most successful organizations and keep your meetings small. For instance, Larry Page implemented a 10-person limit to Google’s meetings. Every person should contribute to the conversation; otherwise they shouldn’t attend the meeting. Similarly, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos uses a “two pizza” rule to ensure the right people attended his meetings. He believes that groups should be small enough that it only takes two pizzas to feed every person involved. Reassess your list of attendees before sending out your next meeting invitation.

Stick to 30 minutes or less

Granted, not all meetings are created equally. Some, like a strategic planning session, will require more space on your calendar. However, when it comes to those frequent staff meetings and daily check-ins, your best bet is to limit the meeting’s length to 30 minutes or less (many reports suggest 15 minutes is the ideal meeting length). Research shows most people’s attention spans range between 10-18 minutes. Anything longer than that and your audience checks out of the conversation. In addition, these time restraints will force the attendees to organize their thoughts. If you’re having difficulty ending your meetings on time, try using a free online stopwatch like this one or opt for the device Google Ventures’ Jake Knapp relies upon, the Time Timer.

Limit distractions from technology

In quick, efficient business meetings, you shouldn’t have time to check your phone for text messages or emails. Not only does this take away from the focus of the meeting, but it’s considered poor etiquette by many professionals. A study from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business found that 75 percent of respondents believe it’s inappropriate to read texts or emails during formal meetings. Consider creating a policy where attendees silence their phones and stow them away during meetings.

Assign responsibility for tasks and decisions

At the end of the meeting, assign every action item to what Steve Jobs and Apple call a DRI or “Directly Responsible Individual.” This simple concept makes accountability clear and directs people with questions to the right individual, ensuring each project runs more smoothly. This process is also a great way to recap the important takeaways from the meeting.

In the end, productive meetings require some careful thought and planning. Once you determine the purpose behind your meetings, it will be easier to apply these rules and transform your bad meetings into productive and actionable conversations.