Is anything to be gained by holding a meeting or is it just “the thing to do” for buy-in on a decision that is already made or a chance to vent on an unpopular idea. If this is the case, is the cost of the meeting worth the labor and morale expense to the project or business? Before scheduling that next meeting, ask “Is this meeting really necessary?” Use the five indicators below to help answer the question and determine when not hold to a meeting.
- Meeting owner is not able to express a valid purpose for the meeting objectives, goals, and desired accomplishments in one or two written sentences. Why is this particular meeting needed at this specific time? If the purpose for the meeting can not be defined, then the meeting is irrelevant and would be a waste of everyone’s time. Don’t go any further in the planning process until a true business-related purpose is defined.
- Meeting leader has no set agenda stating topics and group actions to be taken on each. If the person organizing the meeting can not focus well enough to plan the action steps the meeting should progress through, how can they expect the people invited to focus on reaching the desired results? Agendas are necessary to focus the meeting, guide the process, as well as for starting and ending the meeting on time.
- Active participation from all potential attendees is not required to meet the primary purpose and topics of the meeting. Why call a meeting if there is no group work to be done? If there is something that needs to be shared with one or two people, who usually come to your meetings, consider having a short informal meeting in your office, the break room, a quick hallway chat, or using the phone. This saves the time of others who would have to sit through a meeting with topics that may not relate to their work efforts. If information is to be shared that does not require discussion, determine if it could be provided in a written form instead. If it can, then send the information in an email or as an attachment instead of putting everyone in a meeting room or on a conference call.
- Attendees who are able to come the meeting may not be the ones that are needed there on the chosen date and time. For example, important decision makers or those who best understand the problem or work to be discussed are unable to attend. If a decision has already been made, is a meeting necessary to tell everyone or pretend to get “buy-in?” This can lead to low trust in the meeting leader. Is it relevant to discuss a perceived problem or work flow issues, if the people closest to the problem or issue are not available? Leaving out those most involved will not produce effective results and can lead to resentment.
- Meeting organizer can not find a good place to hold the meeting. This may seem obvious, but some people actually do all of the above planning but forget to book a location for the meeting! Is there a room available that has comfortable seating for all attendees? Will this room meet any technical requirements that may be necessary for the meeting? Is the meeting location convenient for most attendees? Most people don’t look forward to meetings, especially if they experience discomfort, waste time on equipment problems, or have to spend extra time just to travel to the meeting. If a meeting location was not arranged in advance, then too much valuable time will be wasted trying to find a place to meet when everyone arrives on-site, so just reschedule it to another date.
Keep in mind, just because a regularly scheduled meeting time and location is set, it doesn’t mean everyone has to be pulled together. If any of the above five indicators show up when planning a meeting, then just cancel the meeting for this week or for the time being if this will not affect project or team productivity. By canceling unnecessary meetings, everyone who would be involved may see more of a need for the meeting the following week. For certain all the potential meeting attendees will have more time for accomplishing other work in the current week. People usually appreciate it if they do not have to attend a formal meeting that is unnecessary. By canceling unnecessary meetings, planned attendees can use the time more wisely on their own. Remember to plan meeting properly and always ask “Is this meeting really necessary?”