7 Signs of a Productive Meeting

It’s a Monday morning 9 a.m. kickoff or a Friday 3 p.m. wrap-up. Your calendar alert pops up — it’s time for the weekly staff meeting. After a quick eye roll, you grab your notepad and pen and walk down the hallway. The next hour is sure to waste precious time you could spend working on your current big project.

What if that weren’t the case, though? Maybe this week’s meeting will be different, and you’ll walk away feeling like it was worth it. Productive meetings can (and should) happen. Here are seven signs that your meeting will be valuable and constructive — with tips for making them all that way.

1. It Has an Agenda

Have you ever walked into a meeting and had no clear idea what was going to happen? From the start, you’re reasonably sure that not much will come from that hour in the conference room. Without an outline, keeping people on track can be difficult. Side conversations and doodling are almost guaranteed.

Setting a meeting agenda can eliminate this problem. It’s a road map for the gathering. A good one will include detailed info on which topics will be discussed. A certain amount of time will be dedicated to each discussion item, including a few minutes for questions.

2. It Has a Point

Chances are you’ve left at least one meeting wondering, “What was that?!” If you walk out of the conference room without clear direction, your meeting wasn’t successful. Unless you have a goal or assignment, you can bet you’ll see a follow-up meeting pop up on your schedule. That’s just more clutter on your calendar.

Good meetings have clear goals. Usually, they’re communicated to everyone on the meeting invite long before the actual event. When you and your colleagues know the reason behind the meeting, you can prepare. Overall, a meeting with a point leads to better discussion and more action.

3. It Stays Focused

Meetings can be helpful — they’re dedicated time slots that give everyone an opportunity to voice their thoughts. They only work, though, if people stay on topic. Conversations that go down the rabbit hole waste everyone’s time. Projects and productivity can stall.

An agenda monitor can be the answer to side conversations that hijack meetings. This person is dedicated to identifying off-topic discussions and keeping everyone on point. Of course, they should jot down any new ideas from these side conversations as well. It’s an efficient way to keep track of other important issues without making the current meeting unproductive.  

4. It Assigns Responsibility

Workdays can be long, and everyone needs a break. A meeting isn’t the time to take a breather, however. In productive meetings, everyone present has an active part to play. This keeps the wheels in motion toward accomplishing a goal.

In a good meeting, everyone should be responsible for a task. It might be giving a report on last week’s sales numbers or sharing options for an upcoming ad campaign. Either way, you’ll hear new and actionable information. Plus, being responsible for part of the meeting keeps people engaged and holds them accountable. 

5. It Stays on Schedule

If you’ve been working long enough, you’ve been there. It’s the meeting that drags on and on while your work piles up. Most of the time, it’s unfocused and doesn’t accomplish much. 

Meetings that respect everyone’s time frequently produce the best results. If there are clear start and stop times, people will concentrate on the task at hand. So it’s vital to keep tabs on time. If you’re punctual about starting and ending the meeting, people will come prepared to get down to business.

6. It Records Decisions

Have you ever had a great meeting with lively conversation, creative thoughts, and helpful insights? Did you forget what they all were two days later? The struggle to hold on to decisions and the reasons behind them is real. That’s important information, though — especially if questions pop up in the future.  

Meeting minutes that outline how your team reached a decision can refresh memories during subsequent reevaluations. They take the guesswork out of why you’re handling a project a certain way. You can see the context and thought processes behind your team’s choices. This knowledge might reinforce your direction, or it could help you reconsider your approach. 

7. It Limits Meeting Size

Big projects can be fun and exciting, but they don’t always need to involve the entire office. In fact, too many cooks in the meeting kitchen can be a nightmare. Frequently, five people around a conference table can accomplish more than 15. It’s better to be selective and only involve truly necessary people in your meetings.

A good rule of thumb is Jeff Bezos’s “two-pizza rule.” Basically, a lunch order for two pizzas should be enough to feed everyone at your meeting. If not, rethink how many people you’re including on the invite. Streamline the invite list, if you can, to include only the people best suited for the discussion.

Meetings are a common event in office life. Unless you’re a solo contractor, you’ll find yourself sitting at a conference table every now and then. So it’s important to be sure each gathering is the best use of your — and everyone else’s — time. 

Take note next time you walk into the conference room. Does your meeting follow these seven rules? If so, you just may accomplish great things.