5 Questions to Ask Yourself
Before Scheduling a Meeting
There are 25 million meetings per day in the United States. And, as you’d likely be quick to guess, not all of them are useful. In fact, executives consider more than 67% of meetings to be total failures. Even worse, companies waste more than $37 million each year on these unproductive sit-downs.
You’ve sat through your fair share of meetings that are total wastes of time. But, chances are, you’ve also attended a few that have been incredibly useful—they’ve sparked new ideas, inspired engaging conversations, and led to swift decisions. When you’re planning a meeting of your own, you undoubtedly want it to fall into that latter category. But, how can you do that? How can you ensure that your meeting will be gratifying instead of groan-worthy? It all starts with asking yourself these important questions—before you ever even send out a calendar invite.
In some cases, brainstorming sessions can be constructive—provided they have some structure and organization. Think of the last time you attended a meeting where the host said he just wanted to “pick your brain” or “bounce some ideas around.” What happened? Did the conversation weave all over the place with little direction? Did you walk out of that conference room feeling like no progress was made? That happens when the core purpose of the meeting isn’t clear. So, before rounding other people up at that table, it’s important that you have a solid grasp on what exactly you want to talk about.
Be as specific as possible here. Instead of saying that you want to “get opinions on this sales presentation,” focus on a specific aspect—such as one slide, the statistics that were utilized, the design, or whatever else you’re struggling with. That will give the group something definitive to focus on.
Another reason that people view meetings as a waste of time? They’re often pulled into ones that don’t involve them in the slightest. That conversation could’ve (and, honestly, should’ve) happened without them. For this reason, it’s important to take the time to think through who actually should be in attendance. Make it your goal to keep the attendee list as targeted as possible.
Of course, sometimes meetings will need to involve larger groups of people. But, it’s still important to ensure that the topic at hand is relevant to everyone that attends your meeting (whether it’s three people or 100!). In the end, refining your list of participants will encourage a much more productive conversation.
Many employees complain that a good chunk of the meetings they attend could’ve easily happened via email. Sure, our inboxes are full enough already (who really wants another message waiting there?). But, many people still prefer email, as it’s something they can think through and tackle in their own time—unlike a scheduled meeting.
Think through why this conversation needs to happen live, rather than via email. Is there an actual presentation you need to deliver? Is the subject far too complex—meaning explaining it via email would take even more time? Is the information extremely confidential in nature and should only be shared with utmost discretion? There are plenty of reasons why a live meeting would be justified. You just need to make sure you’re clear on that reasoning before you get one on the schedule.
Ultimately, every meeting should have a clear goal—otherwise, it likely doesn’t need to happen in the first place. Without an end objective in place, you’ll have no way to determine whether or not your meeting was successful. What should this meeting accomplish? Do you need to get some clarity on next steps for a project? Do you need to map out an outline of a department-wide presentation? Do you need to get everybody up to speed on that quarter’s sales report?
Put simply, what are you hoping to walk away from that meeting with? If you can’t think of any sort of answer to that question, you’re probably not ready to have a conversation quite yet.
The best, most productive meetings are planned for. They have an agenda, necessary materials are sent out ahead of time for review, and nobody wanders into that room wondering what they’re in for. So, after you’ve determined that a meeting is indeed necessary, jot down a few things that you should do to prepare yourself and your attendees for that discussion. The more groundwork you can lay ahead of time, the more constructive and rewarding your meeting will be.
You don’t want to waste any of your co-workers’ or your own time. But, sometimes it can be tough to tell whether or not a meeting is truly necessary. Before sending out a calendar invite, take some time to think through these five questions to get a much better idea of which direction you should go.