How to make your meetings more effective, quick tips by David Edmundson-Bird

How do we make meetings effective?

I think that is one of the oldest questions in the world. I go to a lot of meetings and I sometimes wonder why I’m at the meetings.

I think some people like to call meetings to make themselves important. Some meetings could just be a two-sentence email.

And you say, “You could have sent me that as an email.”

I think the most important thing is a meeting needs to have an agenda and I think people get a bit like, “Oh, does it really have to.” and I think, “Yeah!” I need to know why I’m going. I need to make a decision if I should be there, because every time you fill a room with expensive people, you have to think you are burning money up. So you better have a very good reason for having those people in that room.

I try and have as few meetings as possible. I try and arrange very few meetings. When I have a meeting and I have arranged it, everyone who’s coming knows it’s very important because they are so rare.

I have an agenda and I say, “This is what we want to talk about.” and we talk. I don’t present, no one presents, we discuss things.

Actually a meeting where the agenda is a very small number of items means that you can talk about all of those items.

Sometimes I think some meetings have agenda lists as long as your arm, and you know that you’ve got an hour and you are not going to cover all of those things in there.

Stand-up meetings & agile

There was a fashion for having meetings standing up in Walmart. They certainly had standing up meetings quite a lot, and it stops people getting comfy. When people get comfy, they start to drift in focus. So, standing up meeting… If you don’t want to stand up for a long time, you’ll make that meeting short and snappy.

I quite like the way people who are doing Agile. They’ll have a stand up at the start of a day where people talk about what’s happened, what problems exist and what they’re going to work on next.

That’s a good way of handling that kind of production style of meeting. I think the type of meeting really dictates what goes on in that meeting. So if it’s, “I need to get some ideas off people, I need to complain about stuff that’s not working.” I think you need to say what this meeting is for so people can plan ahead.

If people have to do an enormous amount of reading before a meeting, I think that’s a real problem, because I think you should be talking about maybe one or two things in a specific meeting. It’s much better to have short meetings very often, rather than one very long meeting in which things are never finished.