Updated: Feb 23, 2019
In the course of working with one startup, I would cringe everytime I would receive it: a meeting invite to the whole company to talk about something either benign or that didn't require everyone in the company. Of course, everyone would accept and attend the meeting, and nothing would be accomplished other than the meeting would go over time by at least x2 and conversation would be all over the place - in fact I was shocked when they ended anywhere near the named topic.
Can you imagine how much the company cost to have that meeting? Sometimes I would figure that number calculate it during the meeting (+$2000/hr fully burdened), and the opportunity cost (much more).
This problem though was not isolated to this one company. At most companies meetings often are overscheduled and attendees overincluded. In fact, this is a $37B per year problem.
As a leader, you are in a position to begin to effect change and set standards for effective meetings. There are three rules we follow and you should too:
Have a defined purpose. What is the reason for the meeting and what will be achieved by the end of it? If necessary, an agenda is helpful for attendees to understand why they are needed and how they will contribute.
Only invite the people you need in the room. Having too many people attend not only takes them away from things they should be working on, but it also increases the likelihood of conversation straying from the purpose. If you're inviting something because the outcome is relevant, use appropriate channels after the meeting to keep them updated.
Summarize and define next steps. What actions need to be taken after the meeting: is there a deliverable, a decision which needs larger communication? Close the meeting with affirming that the purpose was served ("We reach this decision on x") and actions and owners for what happens next.
Has your company instituted any rules about meetings? What works well for you? We'd love to hear in the comments.