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Your checklist for more effective meetings

Keeping meetings, tight, effective and on-track takes discipline. And meetings that waste time also squander energy, productivity, and money.

When you follow these 15 tips you gain respect and buy-in as you run meetings that are valuable, efficient and productive.

  1. Hold meetings standing up to capture more excitement and reduce the length of the meeting.
  2. Include decision makers so decisions can be finalized at the meeting.
  3. Schedule shorter meetings. Aim for 15 minutes. Time limits keep meetings focused on essential topics. TED talks are limited to 18 minutes or less so presenters will carefully organize their thoughts. Research shows we tend to focus well for 10 to 18 minutes before our minds start to wander.
  4. Make commitments in addition to decisions. Choose someone to be responsible. Steve Jobs called them DRIS -- Directly Responsible Individuals. He ended meetings by assigning tasks and commitments. Issue a clear request and require a verbal buy-in. Don’t allow a non-committal “I’ll try.” Assignments give greater accountability and clearer organization.
  5. Use a timer to keep track of time and keep you on target. Determine a specific amount of time for each agenda item. When time is up, assign the next steps and move on.
  6. Leave cellphones at the door. A Marshall School of Business survey indicates you antagonize co-workers by using cell phones in meetings. 86% find it rude to answer phones in meetings. Essentially when you turn from the meeting to your phone, you waste other’s time and tell them they are less important than your call, text or email.
  7. Reduce size of meetings. Try to keep meetings to eight people or fewer. It allows for more creativity and leaves others free to work.
  8. Come to the meeting prepared. Expect every attendee to be prepared with data and ready to answer follow up questions.
  9. Focus the meeting. American Express executive Christopher Frank has said he asks, “What exactly are we meeting about?”  Everyone at the meeting answers in five words or less and so insures all are on the same page. Intel has a sign: "If you don’t know the purpose of your meeting, you are prohibited from starting."
  10. Review reoccurring meetings. Are they necessary? Cancel them if there are no agenda items.
  11. Cut off ramblers. You know the people who harp on one issue or are slow to get to the point. Create a strategy to deal with them. Condense and restate their point and move on.
  12. Write the agenda item as a question. Ask: When will the prototype be ready? Instead of just putting “prototype status” on the agenda.
  13. Get buy-in on completed agenda items. If you move ahead too quickly, you may leave some people still thinking about the last point. Ask if everyone is finished with the current topic before you move to the next.
  14. Take a two-minute pause. After introducing an idea or problem, encourage deep thinking to arrive at ideas, plans, or solutions by calling for two minutes of silence so participants can think.
  15. Set the right tone. Make it clear you are there to solve a problem, not to push your agenda. Be open to input. Talk with participants ahead of time about agenda items and consider their insights as you prepare for your meeting.

Follow these 15 steps and you will become known as someone who runs efficient, productive meetings. People will want to attend your meetings because they know you value their time and get results.

Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 executive coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, Gap and Starbucks. He is the author of 300 articles on leadership and seven books, including "Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

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