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How to Run a Meeting (That Isn't Terrible)
Andrew Logemann
Andrew Logemann
Head of Marketing
min read

Meetings: we've all been to them, and we've all hated them.

From the meetings that should have been emails, to the meetings that last for hours without accomplishing anything, everyone has a favorite meeting horror story. It seems like no one knows how to run a meeting properly.

But there is hope! Meetings can be useful and productive if they're designed right.

"We can do better," says entrepreneur and business coach, Michael Hyatt. "Meetings don’t have to be awful. But it's critical that we recognize one fact: We’re not going to drift into better meetings. We have to be intentional and learn how to conduct meetings for top results."

Your meetings are not going to get better by accident. In this article, you'll learn how to run a meeting that isn't terrible. And, as a bonus, when you might want to improve your meetings by having fewer of them!

How to run a meeting: Have a clear goal or agenda

When you call a meeting, it's important to have a goal. Otherwise, what are you doing?

Without a goal or an agenda, people show up, they talk, they leave. And nothing changes. This is not how to run a meeting effectively.

In fact, it is a recipe for disaster. But it happens all the time, at companies large and small. "The meeting culture that is dominating corporate America is unsustainable and unproductive," Carson Tate observes in The New York Times. "How many meetings did you attend last week that didn’t even have an agenda? How many resulted in a new idea? And at how many meetings did you think, 'Why am I even here?'"

💡 Solution: To keep your next meeting from being terrible, create a written agenda -- in advance -- that clearly articulates want to achieve in your time together. If you can't do this, stop! Delay the meeting until you figure out what it is for. Or cancel it altogether.

How to run a meeting: Invest your team's time wisely

When you schedule a meeting, it's important to consider the big picture.

Meetings aren't free. They actually come with a pretty significant price tag. "If you're holding an hour-long meeting for the top 15 people in your company or department," Erika Andersen advises in Forbes: "that's hugely expensive. Rather than thinking of it as a necessary evil, think of it as a major investment on which you need to get a good return."

Meetings can be inefficient, a waste of time and money, and a waste of human potential. This wasted time accumulates, and it has real economic impacts.

Source: “The Economic Impact of Bad Meetings.” TED Business

Executives spend an average of 23 hours in meetings every week. Worse, they report that more than one third of that time is wasted. That adds up to two full months per year!

💡 Solution: To keep your next meeting from being terrible, approach it like an investment.

  • Keep it organized.
  • Make it as short as possible.
  • Invite the people required to make a decision… and no one else.
  • Follow up after the meeting to communicate next steps.
  • Implement the decision and track the results.

How to run a meeting: Make a meaningful decision

Source: Dilbert Comic Strip on May 16, 2012

Good meetings aren't about sharing information (that could have been sent in an email). They are not about seeing and being seen. And they are not about giving status updates.

Good meetings are about making important decisions.

As a manager, decisions drive your work and shape your team's culture. When you adopt making decisions as the norm for your meetings, you find clarity about which meetings are actually necessary. You and your team develop a shared sense of focus. Everyone understands what you are there to accomplish.

Suddenly, you have traction and momentum.

"If you’ve ever worked somewhere that does adhere to operating norms like these, you’ve seen the relief and higher productivity that result when you’re liberated from the tyranny of excessive meetings," Alison Green observes in Slate. "It’s bizarre that most employers—who generally want to keep employees productive and efficient—simply accept long, unfocused meetings as an unavoidable element of work life."

💡 Solution: To keep your next meeting from being terrible, focus it around a meaningful decision.

Bonus: In 2022, most meetings don't need to happen at all!

Many of us just accept meetings as a part of our professional lives.

In "How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) from Bad Meetings," David Grady calls this Mindless Accept Syndrome. "The primary symptom of Mindless Accept Syndrome is just accepting a meeting invitation the minute it pops up in your calendar. It's an involuntary reflex — ding, click, bing — it's in your calendar."

You don't stop to ask what the meeting is for, why it is happening, or if it is relevant to you. You just fill up your calendar with meeting after meeting. And then wonder why you can't get your work done!

But there is an alternative: asynchronous (async) collaboration.

Async collaboration minimizes your reliance on meetings. Instead, teams generate ideas, exchange information, solve problems, and make decisions with documents and other async tools.

💡 Solution: To keep your next meeting from being terrible, don't hold a meeting at all! You can make great decisions without unnecessary meetings using the Async Protocol.

Make decisions without meetings with the Async Protocol

Source: Almanac's Async Protocol

If your meetings are terrible, you might be working the wrong way.

For most managers, a full day spent in in back-to-back meetings, where the loudest voice in the room usually wins and siloed decisions aren't communicated effectively, isn't unusual. It's just another Thursday.

What if there was a better way? What if you could make better and faster decisions without so many meetings?

The Async Protocol unlocks your ability to make decisions with your team without leaving a document.

The Async Protocol

  • Draft: Build documents with powerful integrations and customize them so your work stands out.
  • Review: Ask for feedback with async workflows that give you radical transparency—when people look at docs, leave comments/tasks, or miss deadlines.
  • Document: Automatically organize final docs in living handbooks where anyone can improve them by suggesting changes.

Learn more about the Async Protocol.

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