Meetings become necessary as soon as you have more than one person working on the same thing. And while none of us are ever perfectly efficient, time wasted in meetings is multiplied by the number of attendees. Ten minutes lost in a meeting of six people adds up to an hour of total wasted time.
For this reason, I believe we should be extra careful with how we spend time in meetings. There are many ways to make meetings more effective, but I want to focus on the two things mentioned in this title:
Meetings Should Start On Time
What's the point of showing up to a meeting on time if you know there will be 5-10 minutes of waiting for everyone to show up? For a meeting to start on time:
- Organizer needs start early to set up projector and slides
- All attendees need to be present exactly when he meeting is supposed to start
Meetings Should End Early
It's not so much that meetings should end early, but most calendars allocate time in 30-minute chunks with no gap between slots. Most people cannot instantaneously move from meeting A ending at 10:59:59 to meeting B starting at 11:00:00.
There has to be a bit of time between meetings. This gives people time to visit a restroom, double check their calendars, grab some more coffee, or setup the next meeting.
A Valid Alternative
Interestingly, we could also reverse the title of this post and get the same result: Meetings should start late and end on time. This somehow feels/sounds intuitively wrong, but the end result is the same.
I think having punctual meetings alone will greatly improve meeting efficiency. However, here are a few more ideas:
Meetings Should Have an Agenda
Unless the meeting is just a casual check-in or introduction, there should really be a clear agenda. This helps attendees prepare (mentally or more formally) or even decide if they need to attend at all.
Meetings Should Have Notes
Meeting notes ensure that all attendees are on the same page regarding the outcomes and decisions that were made. They are also great for attendees who may have missed a meeting, and for stakeholders who don't need to attend but are interested in the outcomes.
I would argue that a meeting isn't worth having unless it results in some form of documented outcome.
Make Required and Optional Attendees Clear
A required attendee is someone for whom we would cancel or move a meeting if they cannot attend. An optional attendee can skip the meeting with no sense of guilt or responsibility.
I suppose there are also scenarios where there is a need a “critical mass” of attendees for a meeting to be useful, so this idea might not apply in all situations. However, it's still a great thing to consider.