Leader Volume 10, Number 1
Steps to a Productive Meeting
by Donald E. Wetmore, Ph.D.
Dr. Wetmore, from Shelton, CT, is a speaker and consultant on time
management. He can be
reached at: phone (800) 969-377; fax (203) 9298151; email firstname.lastname@example.org;
It is said that on an average day in the United States, there will
be 17 million meetings. (It makes you wonder how anything ever
gets done!) A meeting is two or more people getting together to
exchange information. What could be simpler? Yet, it is one of the
biggest institutional time wasters that we suffer.
An informative exercise is to calculate the hourly cost of the
meeting. A person earning $50,000 per year represents an hourly
salary cost to the organization of $25 (without adding in
benefits, overhead, and profit potential). If ten people at this
salary level meet for one hour, the cost is $250 for the hour.
Then look at what was accomplished. Was it worth $250? Sometimes
"yes." But a lot of times, "no."
Iím recommending five steps to help you improve the productivity
of your meetings. Even if you are not responsible for running the
meeting, bring these suggestions to the person who is.
1. Ask, "Is it necessary?" We always hold the meeting
because we have always held the meeting. What would happen if it
did not take place? What if we did not meet quite so often? How
about if we met once a month instead of every week?
2. Ask the question, "Am I necessary?" Now I do not mean
this in the deep philosophical sense, but, rather, "do I get
anything out of the meeting?" and "do I contribute
anything to the meeting?" If the answers to those two
questions are both "no," try to avoid attending the
meeting. Or, perhaps just the first half of the meeting is
relevant to you. In this case, see if there is a way to get
excused from the second half.
3. Prepare an agenda. Just as it is a good practice to prepare a
daily "to-do list" to help us get focused, we ought to
have a written agenda for our meeting. Circulate it in advance to
those who will be attending. Let them know what is to be
discussed. Give them a chance to prepare. Do not hold meetings by
4. Set the times. Have a starting time and stick to it. Set the
time for each item to be discussed so that one item does not
dominate the entire meeting, leaving no time to discuss other
items. Have an ending time and stick to it.
5. Commit to action. Meetings ought to produce results. Resolve to
a course of action. We have discussed the issue, so now what?
Assign responsibility for the tasks to specific individuals with
deadlines and hold these people accountable.