“If they can’t start a meeting without you, well, that’s a meeting worth going to, isn’t it?” So says Buddy Ackerman, the cutthroat studio executive played by Kevin Spacey in Swimming with Sharks.
That bit of show business advice might be worth following if you’re planning to make a Hollywood power play. The rest of us need to worry about real business, and meetings are sometimes a necessary part of getting things done. A 30-minute meeting, for example, could prevent 30 days of confusion and problems.
But unproductive meetings can strangle your schedule. Here are five ways to loosen their grip and ensure productive outcomes.
- Meet by the One-Sentence Rule. If you can’t summarize the reason you’re meeting in one sentence, it’s doomed. OK, you can have two sentences. But if you need a third sentence, cancel the meeting until you’re better able to articulate its purpose, or pare down the focus. Effective meetings must have a clearly defined goal understood by all attendees.
- Don’t Pay Interest on Your Time. When your meetings start late, you’re paying interest on your time, often at loan-shark rates. A one-hour meeting that starts 10 minutes late costs you almost 17 percent in time interest. Those are lousy terms of credit. Create a culture that values everyone’s time by being on time. Likewise, have a clear end point and only exceed it in extraordinary circumstances.
- Make Your Meetings More Exclusive. Invite only business-critical attendees — the people that absolutely must be there for the meeting to be a success. Everyone else is a waste of money. If you’re the boss, think of each employee’s meeting attendance in terms of what you pay them — how much is their time costing you? They could be making you money instead.
- Mix It Up. If your routine meetings aren’t working, or if they’ve become just a little too routine, take a chance on something new. Change the time of day, the location, the agenda, the duration — or any other details specific to your business. It’s low-risk — if the change isn’t positive, you can always return to the routine.
- Follow Through for Results. Your meetings should deliver results, no matter how simple. Just like having a clear, definable purpose, you should be able to point to positive business gains as a result of your meetings — even if those gains take some time to materialize. If they never materialize, then you need to reevaluate why the meetings are taking place at all.
What works for your business? Share your ideas for effective meetings in the comments section below.