Meetings have become a necessary evil:
We all spend far too long in meetings which feel like a waste of time.
Have you heard jokes like
‘A meeting is a place where you spend hours and take minutes’ or
‘A meeting is a collection of people who make decisions that none of them would be stupid enough to make individually’
Sometimes it feels like meetings are a lifeform that has enslaved corporate humanity into replicating more meetings.
On the other hand, meetings are a fact of corporate life.
They are critical to getting work done, agreeing, aligning, debating and discussing. Meetings are where people get trained because they can see the decision making process of others and can test their hypotheses.
You can forge relationships in the crucible of shared progress with good meetings.
I use a process and one-page meeting mastery framework to stay on top of my goals. The framework ensures my meetings are productive and drive towards fulfilling my goals.
Repeating and recording the one-page framework over repeated meetings helps paint a clear picture of long term priorities, progress and history.
A downloadable version of the one-page framework in PowerPoint is available here:
One page minutes framework - PPT
Before your meeting, the most critical question is to know what you expect out of the meeting.
Why are you meeting? What decision/outcome will make the meeting successful? Will achieving this decision/outcome make you or your organisation more successful or help achieve a specific goal?
If you cant answer this question, don’t go to the meeting. You can always excuse yourself or delegate your attendance and then catch up on the minutes later.
If you can answer the question, invest 10 minutes before the meeting to write down what you want in the framework [top left quadrant]. Review the previous one-page meeting format from the last session on the subject as a starting point.
During the meeting, record any insights (new ideas, connections or anything that surprises you) [bottom left quadrant]
If the meeting is drifting away from its objectives, then politely and firmly try to bring it back and keep it focused on your desired outcomes.
Record action items and follow-ups, with who is responsible for doing them and by when [bottom right quadrant].
In the end, take a minute to summarise the outcomes and conclusions from the meeting and to check if you achieved the objectives that you had set earlier [top right quadrant].
Compare the outcomes with what you had expected going into the meeting. Update your ongoing mental model about the situation/team/problem/business with any insights you had during the session. How do the conclusions from the meeting fit your annual goals and priorities?
Did you get what you wanted? Or did you realise you actually should have wanted something else? Did you learn anything new or exciting, and is it clear who does what after the meeting.
Try not to use more than a page for one meeting, no matter how long it is.
Compressing your thoughts into one page forces you to create clarity. And this clarity comes through in your subsequent decision making and communication.
Open a new one-page meeting framework and fill in the 'objectives' section for the next meeting on the topic. File both the current format and the next one together (ideally in one file) - so next time, you have a starting point ready for the follow-up meeting.
If you want a complete record, and you are meeting on zoom/teams, you can take screenshots of critical slides presented and paste them in miniature onto a second backup powerpoint page. One of these pages can take up to 25 charts, which you can zoom up later if needed. If you aren't meeting virtually, you can ask for a copy of the presented materials and make these snapshots.
This framework will:
Keep you alert, interested and actively listening during the meeting.
Give you and your team the gift of clarity.
Ensure you continue to make continual progress towards your goals over multiple meetings without getting sidetracked.
Build a habit of reflection before and after meetings. This habit helps you course correct and solidify knowledge in your mind.
Create a searchable database of the critical issues, insights and actions over the years when you put multiple one-page minute frameworks together for a business.
Making meetings more effective:
Be aware that work is work; meetings are meetings, and meetings are not ‘work’.
Try to maximise the time you do work (however you define it) and minimise the time spent in formal meetings.
To do this-
Keep meetings as short as you can:
The discussion expands to fill the available time. Conversely, when you limit the time available, you will surprise yourself with what you can achieve in a 15 min meeting which you have organised and managed well.
As a default set your meetings for 15 or 30 minutes. Only make meetings longer if really needed.
Run your meetings on time:
Start on time and end on time. If you can not fully address the topic in the allotted time, set up another meeting. Respect other people and don't delay them by starting or finishing late.
Have a reason for each invitee:
Ensure that people are only invited to the meeting if they need to contribute or learn from the forum. Ensure everyone gets a chance to contribute if they need to and make sure they get a respectful audience.
Assign roles to people:
Have one person be the timekeeper. Nominate someone else as the person who will pull the group back and refocus them on the vital issue if everyone is enjoying a particularly entertaining discussion but the meeting in a useless rabbit hole. Ensure it is clear who will publish pre-reads and minutes.
Have clear roles for pre-reads vs one-page notes vs presentation:
Pre reads are a great way of ensuring everyone is up to speed. Use pre-reads or one-page letters on the subject to get everyone on the same page and then use the meeting for discussion rather than presenting the same information again.
When you consume a one-page note or pre-read, the author has chosen the critical issue that needs to be solved. Make sure you agree or disagree with the problem hypothesis up-front. Doing this saves everyone a lot of time and heartbreak later.
Follow up on actions from the previous meeting if needed:
Use the one-page format from the last meeting and make sure you understand the status of agreed actions.
Summarise the meeting at the end:
Agree at the end of the meeting whether the group met the objective or not, before summarising follow-ups.
Thanks Adi for the simple and precise framework. Having high quality meetings which are outcome focused is one of the key force multipliers for an effective organization.
Thank you Aditya - the simplicity here is powerful. Do you have thoughts to share on the hybrid meeting? This is a new space for most - the rules of engagement when part of the team is together in a room and part virtual.