In our meeting today, we are going to focus on our top ten priorities.

I am not exactly sure why we are scheduled to meet, but let’s just go ahead and meet anyway.

Sorry I am late; my first meeting ran long; can you catch me up on what we were discussing?

I hear these statements all day long. (And I know you do, too.) I hear them SO frequently that I am now numb to how ironic and unbelievable these statements really are. Think about it – how can you focus on ten priorities? A priority is something that is more important than something else; It is one thing that should be done FIRST. How can you have ten first things?

Yet, we host, sit through, listen to, doodle through meetings where we are asked to focus on ten priorities, where we’re asked to muddle through the muck of a conversation that has neither a clear agenda nor a clear purpose, where participants stroll in late or drop off early. The result is gross inefficiency.

Ironic?

Yes.

Because we neither choose nor want to run our respective businesses this way.

The meeting culture that is consuming our organizations is fundamentally flawed. And it undermines you and the profitability of your organization as we saw with the recent ouster of Bryan Stockton, CEO of Mattel, after another disappointing holiday sales season. When asked why, Stockton himself said Mattel lacked an innovative culture and blamed it on bad meetings.

So, when you are facing another week of back-to-back meetings, how do you eliminate the bad meetings? AND how do get ahead of them and prevent them from reoccurring in the first place?

### Calculate the Cost of Each Meeting

Each meeting has a real physical cost. It is the hourly rate of each person attending the meeting. For example, let’s assume that the hourly rate of each person who attends your weekly staff meeting is between \$100 – \$300. Let’s take the midpoint, \$200, and multiply this by ten the number of attendees present.

Your weekly staff meeting costs you \$2,000 each and every week. Now, if you invest \$2,000 in a product or service for your organization, don’t you expect a return on that investment at least equal to what you spent? Now, why wouldn’t you expect that each and every meeting in your organization generate or provide a return on investment of at least the cost of the participant’s time.

Calculate the cost of your meetings and eliminate those meetings where you are losing money or they generate a very low return on investment.

### Question the Personal and Professional Value of Every Meeting

If you want to eliminate bad meetings from your calendar, then start to question the personal and professional value of each and every meeting you attend. Instead of automatically accepting the next meeting request, pause and consider the meeting’s return on investment for you.

• Will this meeting assist you in achieving your goals?
• How does the purpose of the meeting (if any!) align with the company’s strategic priorities?
• What contribution can you make in the meeting?
• Will anyone even notice if you are not present?
• Will this meeting be energizing, or will it suck the life right out of you?
• Will this meeting be merely a rehash of the last five meetings?

Above all, is attending this meeting the highest and best use of your time right now? Every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else.

### Leave Nothing to Chance – Plan Your Meeting

When you are considering launching a new product or service, you do rigorous market research, conduct pilots and carefully plan each phase from development to launch. Your meetings require the same level consideration. The success of any meeting depends on pre-meeting reflection and planning.

To improve your chances of conducting an effective, efficient meeting reflect on the following questions prior to scheduling the meeting:

• Why do we need to meet? If you cannot answer this question, do not move on to the next question. You do not need to meet.
• What is the purpose of the meeting?
• What is the outcome I want to achieve as a result of this meeting?
• Is there an alternative format I can use to achieve the outcome?
• If a meeting is essential, what is the ideal meeting format to achieve the meeting outcomes—an in-person meeting, a virtual meeting, or a combination of the two?
• Who needs to attend the meeting?
• What information do I need from the attendees?
• What do the attendees need to know or complete in advance of the meeting to achieve the meeting outcome?
• What expectations do I have for the meeting attendees regarding preparation and participation? How will I communicate these expectations?

Answering all these questions and methodically acting on the answers ensures that the meeting focuses on—and achieves—its real purpose. You save time and money.

### Question the Length of Every Meeting

How often have you left a meeting and thought to yourself, “We could have concluded this meeting in just 10 minutes” or even “We could have wrapped up this meeting an HOUR ago”?

At some point in time, we all stopped carefully considering the ideal length for a meeting and succumbed to the default setting in our calendars, allocating one hour for every meeting, regardless of its purpose. Break from the pack. Start questioning the length of all of the meetings you lead and attend.

If you are leading a meeting, carefully consider the purpose, outcomes, and format to determine the ideal length of the meeting. If you are leading a virtual meeting by telephone or video conference, , be cognizant that you will probably only have the partial attention of your far-flung, invisible attendees due to multitasking.

That means that, if the meeting exceeds 45 to 60 minutes, you are guaranteed a significant deterioration in attention and focus. Shorter is definitely sweeter for virtual meetings.

Your goal is to keep meetings as focused, limited, and brief as possible. Consider shortening every meeting by 15 minutes. And don’t forget about Parkinson’s Law, tasks take as long as the time allotted. Your meetings will take as long as the time allotted. Shorten your meetings.

### What can you do now?

• Look at your calendar for the upcoming week and decline at least two meetings. Use this time to think or actually complete work.
• Before you say yes to the next meeting request that shows up in your inbox, ask yourself if this meeting will support you in achieving your goals, how you can contribute and if it will be a rehash of the last five meetings you attended.
• Shorten all of the meetings you lead by 15 minutes.

Read Next: The 4 types of productivity

Image credit: Shutterstock

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