All we do is meet, meet, meet, meet, meet. Sometimes it feels like in a given day, you didn't actually accomplish any work because you spent the whole time in meetings. Do you know that feeling of dread when you start your work day, open your calendar, and realize that you won't be checking anything off the to-do list until tomorrow?

Executives spend an average of 23 hours per week in meetings, and these hours can add up to a high cost of the average meeting, in terms of employee salary. The next time you go to schedule a meeting, run through this checklist to make sure it's worth it and as efficient as possible.

Additionally, if you have to schedule a remote meeting, use video conferencing rather than audio-only conference calls and don't waste time while you're in the meeting. Video conferencing decreases meeting time, improves productivity, and increases employee happiness and relationship-building. 

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Useless meetings can lead to distracted, disengaged employees, like these ones:


Multitasking LONG FINAL

To avoid a situation like this one, use our checklist for deciding if you need a meeting in the first place, and planning the most productive meeting possible if you do.

The Essential Meeting Checklist

"Do we need to have this meeting?" If you're asking yourself this question, double-check this list before sending out agendas and calendar invites.

1. Is the matter urgent or time-sensitive?

This question is important to ask first. If the topic you want to discuss with colleagues is urgent or time-sensitive -- such as a data security breach, an employee safety issue, or a negative piece of press -- use more immediate communication methods, such as Slack or Microsoft teams, to immediately brief the decision-makers and leaders you need to loop in. From there, you can decide if you need to immediately gather in a meeting or jump onto a conference call or video meeting, or if other members of the team need to be consulted first.

The bottom line is, if there's a pressing issue that requires input from other team members, you'll likely need a meeting at some point. But you should make sure to inform folks using the fastest method possible ASAP, first. 

2. Am I looking for ideas, discussion, and debate, or am I looking for collaboration, feedback or deliverables?

Another important question to consider before sending out calendar invitations is what type of meeting you're interested in holding.

If you're looking for an exchange of ideas to be discussed and debated between core team members before making decisions and launching plans and campaigns to achieve team goals, you most likely need a meeting to get your team members in a room together for a conversation.

However, if what you need is collaboration or feedback on an ongoing project, or to review deliverables from other team members, you may not need a meeting. Instead, consider if you can send out a reminder email with deadlines and requests for feedback or contributions to shared team documents. Google Drive and Dropbox Paper are helpful collaborative documentation tools you can use to solicit and give feedback and get changes and edits from other team members, and emails or instant messages can serve as effective reminders instead of taking up a group's time with a meeting.

The general rule of thumb is, if the work needed can be done offline, do it offline. Later, you can meet in-person or via video meeting to discuss progress and exchange new ideas.

3. Who is the designated responsible individual for the task I'm hoping to accomplish?

This is an important question to ask yourself before scheduling the meeting. If you're the directly responsible individual accountable for the success or failure of a project, ask yourself if there's work to be done on the project that you can complete before looping in other stakeholders. 

If you aren't the designated responsible individual or project leader, you most likely shouldn't be scheduling the meeting. Instead, touch base with the project manager in a 1:1 or via instant message or email about if there are any outstanding deliverables you can offer support with.

4. If I need help brainstorming, how many ideas do we need?

It's always more appealing to have other heads in the room with you when you need to get ideas down on paper for a project. However, simply because you'd like help generating new ideas doesn't always mean that a meeting is required.

Instead, save meetings for brainstorms where you need a lot of ideas and a lot of input from others before kicking off a project. If what you're looking for input on are smaller ideas, such as blog post titles, social media video concepts, or prospecting ideas, hold a virtual brainstorm by brain-dumping your ideas into a shared document and asking team members to weigh in when they have a chance.

If you're brainstorming about larger-scale campaigns, cross-functional initiatives, or other high-level projects that can impact the broader team, it's worth scheduling a brainstorm meeting.

5. Are we meeting about an idea or project that has not been discussed or kicked off yet?

Kickoff meetings for new projects are a critical part of the collaboration process. It's important to dedicate time to getting into a room, getting on the same page, and talking through responsibilities, deliverables, and deadlines needed from the group in order to get an initiative off the ground.

However, if the project has already been kicked off in a prior meeting, consider balancing check-ins with alternating meetings and virtual collaboration. Instead of a weekly status report meeting, consider biweekly status report meetings punctuated by stand-ups via Slack or email wherein team members can share progress made virtually.

6. What's my ideal outcome?

Ask yourself what your ideal outcome would be if you were to hold a meeting. Walking away from the table, how would you determine if a meeting was a success or a failure?

It's important to think this through because it may help you determine if a meeting is needed or not. If your desired outcome is a piece of collateral, like a presentation, a document, or a spreadsheet, a meeting may not be necessary yet. If what you're looking for are ideas and feedback, collaboration, or input, it might be time for a meeting. By thinking through the goal you're looking to achieve first, you can determine steps that might be needed to take before taking people's time up with a meeting.

Once you've decided that yes, you need to hold a meeting, make sure you're running through our checklist for making sure the meeting is run as efficiently and productively as possible.

7. If this is a recurring meeting, how often are status reports needed to be successful?

If the meeting you're planning will be a recurring weekly, biweekly, or monthly meeting, consider introducing virtual meeting elements into the equation to be as productive as possible with everybody's time. If you do need a weekly status update, host every other stand-up over Slack so you're getting the information you need without gathering everyone together in a room.

8. Is everyone I plan to invite necessary?

Business leaders and thinkers agree that the most successful meetings can be held over a single pizza -- with about eight participants. The folks you invite can always invite other members of their individual teams to join if needed, but keep the core group of attendees small to keep meetings productive and as chatter-free as possible.

9. Can the meeting take place using a video call?

In every case, the answer to this question should be, "yes." Video conference meetings will make it easier to include remote participants in the conversation, and they can be recorded for review in the future by participants who were unable to attend. Additionally, video conference meetings are faster than audio-only conference calls, so video meetings are more productive and more inclusive.

10. How long should this meeting be?

Be extremely mindful of people's time when you book your meeting. If you have a longer agenda, you might be tempted to book a full hourlong meeting. However, we encourage you to look critically at your agenda to determine how much time these discussions will actually require. Set your standard meeting length as 30 minutes, expanding to 45 or 60 minutes only if the agenda items are all closely related. Sometimes, in an effort to be efficient, people book longer meetings to cover a broad swath of tasks, but if they're unrelated, that can be confusing for participants.

It's better to book two shorter meetings than it is to book an extra-long meeting that's so unfocused as to be unproductive. Just don't forget to follow our checklist when booking the second meeting, too.

11. Does the meeting have a clear agenda?

There is nothing worse than a meeting with an unprepared leader. Meeting agendas shared ahead of time give invitees the opportunity to prepare for the discussion in a way that allows them to contribute productively, and creating the agenda will help you clarify your thinking and vision about the project being discussed.

12. Is the meeting room A/V set up already?

Last but not least, make sure the meeting room you're booking is set up to go. Run through our A/V checklist to make sure the room you're using is ready to immediately hop onto a video conference or conference call to avoid wasting valuable meeting time wrangling technical difficulties.

Getting more efficient with meetings will save your company from fatigue, maximize productivity, and hey, meetings cost U.S companies $37 billion a year, so let's all save some money and streamline our time. To learn more, read about the potential cost of meetings next.

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