Monday, July 2, 2018

Better Meetings

As a company scales the number of meetings initially grows faster then headcount. With more people comes more coordination. Most companies have bad meeting etiquette, which means an enormous amount of time is wasted. The following steps help increase meeting efficiency:

1. Determine who is necessary in the meeting.
Are there really 20 people needed in the room? Separate the must haves, from the nice to haves, from the politically expedient to be there.

2. Send out an agenda in advance.
What will be discussed? How much time do you really need to spend per topic? Maybe the 60 minute meeting should really be 30 minutes? Like wedding planning, meetings fill the time available to them.

Similarly, what preparation should people do in advance? Is there a document to pre-read or data to look at in advance so people come prepared?

3. Set up (projecting, hangout or conference line, etc.) in advance if you can.
If you are running the meeting and are able to do so, arrive in advance. Dial into the conference line or start the Hangout and start projecting. Instead of wasting 5 minutes in setup with 10 people there, do it early.

If your conference rooms are always fully booked back to back (often the case as the fast growing companies are always running out of space), it is hard to get into the room 5 minutes early. Companies can facilitate this by having an :05 policy. I.e. meetings start at 2:05 but the meeting owner books the room starting at 2:00 so has 5 minutes to set up.

4. Kick off the meeting with objectives.
Review the agenda and purpose of the meeting. Is it to make a decision on a product? To brainstorm a new feature? To review a sales pipeline and prioritize leads? If the meeting does not have a clear objective, you should cancel it. If the same topic is repeated over and over in a weekly meeting without progress, decide if escalation or another method of breaking a bottleneck is needed. The same meeting should not take place 5 times.

5. Assign a note taker.
Who is responsible for taking notes in the meeting? Any meeting with more then 3-4 people should send out notes. The meeting owner can assign/delegate note taker up front.

6. Send out meeting notes.
Meeting notes help the rest of the company know what was discussed or decided. It allows different stakeholders to follow up if they were unable to attend. Notes increase cross-company transparency dramatically [1].

Meeting notes would optimally include:
a. Subject/topic of meeting
b. Date
c. Attendees
d. Actions/decisions
e. Agenda
f. Detailed notes

7. Clean up the meeting calendar ongoing.

Unnecessary regular meetings accumulate like rust on a company. Ask all meeting owners to go through and kill meetings once a quarter. (a) What meetings are still necessary or useful? (b) Who should still attend? People can be dropped and added as well to rebalance who should attend.


[1] There may be legal reasons to not take notes in specific meetings. Consult with the company's GC or external counsel on training for meeting note etiquette.

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