This blog article is part of Foundant’s quarterly content series designed to offer tangible tips and practical resources on how to Work Smarter, Not Harder.
Do you find it challenging to get anything done during the workday due to an overwhelming number of meetings? If your answer is yes (and I am guessing it is), you’re not alone. According to Zippia, 65% of employees agree that meetings prevent them from completing their own work. And it’s only gotten more difficult in recent years. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that meetings increased by 12.9% during the pandemic as we sought opportunities for connection and collaboration.
But are all these meetings worthwhile? Research says no. Only 50% of time in meetings is used effectively, according to an interview in Forbes Magazine with University of North Carolina at Charlotte Management Professor Steven Rogelberg, a leading expert on meetings and author of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance.
Unnecessary meetings waste $37 billion in salary hours a year in the U.S., according to an estimate by the software company Atlassian.
Clearly, you are not alone if you’ve ever sat in a meeting and wondered, “Why am I here?”
In our most recent Work Smarter, Not Harder podcast episode, Having Great Meetings, guest host Rachel Myers shares strategies and practical frameworks to help you decide when and how meetings can be most effective.
3 Characteristics of Effective Meetings
First, it’s important to establish what makes a meeting great. Rachel identifies three characteristics:
- The purpose of the meeting is clearly defined, and the desired outcomes are achieved.
- The meeting time is valuable—ideally energizing—for all participants.
- All meeting participants contribute to the outcomes of the meeting.
1. Planning Effective Meetings—The Four Ps
When planning your meeting, don’t start with the agenda. Instead, Rachel recommends following the Four Ps. Identify the following:
- Purpose: Why are we meeting? Could we accomplish this another way (i.e., shared document, email, update via a Loom video)?
- Product: What will we produce together? What are the outcomes we seek?
- People: Who needs to be present to make this happen? What role will each participant play and how will this meeting benefit them/their team?
- Process: How will we spend our time to meet our purpose and outcomes? This is also known as the agenda. Note that this is the last step, not the first.
Rachel’s challenge: When you first begin to plan a meeting, start by writing a purpose statement.
Consider Shorter Meeting Times
Rachel’s challenge: Create shorter meetings whenever possible. Rachel describes 45 minutes as the sweet spot.
2. Facilitating Great Meetings—The IEEI Framework
After you’ve planned your meeting, it’s time to facilitate. Rachel recommends using the IEEI framework to run the most effective meeting:
- Inform: Ensure that everyone in the meeting understands the objectives and purpose of the meeting. At the start of the session, explain why everyone is there and what the group will walk away with.
- Empower: Describe the role attendees will play, and the power they have in the meeting. Also, define your role as the facilitator.
- Excite: Share the benefits of the meeting and why it is important to each attendee.
- Involve: Engage attendees early and often. Ask questions that connect to the meeting’s purpose, conduct a poll, use a whiteboard, create breakout rooms, or even get people moving if it’s an in-person meeting.
IEEI is a great way to kick off any meeting or gathering. You can also use the IEEI framework multiple times throughout your meeting with each new agenda item. This helps to ensure that everyone is clear about why you are discussing each item and what role you are asking them to play throughout the meeting.
Track Decisions and Wrap Up
Don’t forget to allow time at the end of your meeting to wrap up:
- Summarize the key decisions, themes, or ideas of the meeting. Rachel recommends using a visual tool like a whiteboard or shared document.
- Identify any action items and assign them to meeting participants.
As you go through these steps, make sure all attendees agree.
Rachel’s Challenge: Send a summary email to all attendees within 24 hours of the meeting to reiterate these points.
Hear Rachel describe these systems and tips in a short six-minute video.
By using these strategies, we can ensure that our meeting time is spent wisely. As you begin to identify when your goals can be achieved through other methods, you can reduce the number of meetings on your calendar and free up time to do the work that matters most. These tools will also help ensure that the time we do spend in meetings is valuable—enabling us to achieve our purpose while also benefiting all participants.
Join the Conversation
Do you already use any of these meeting strategies? Please share your experience or any additional tips and tricks in our Work Smarter, Not Harder conversation in Compass, Foundant’s online community for philanthropy.