Golden rules of Productive Meetings


You probably have had the experience of struggling to stay awake through a long meeting at work, or you have at least seen someone complaining what was the point of having three-hour meeting?

Here’s an amazing fact that every month, people spend around 31 hours in unproductive meetings, and the U.S. spends a whopping $37 billion on salaries for hours spent in unnecessary meetings. Why? Because most of the time it’s not taken serious that time is the most valuable asset. Steve Jobs established the meeting rules at Apple which still gives Apple a leading edge in productivity. “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” (Steve Jobs)

So to have a framework for meetings is extremely essential in order to ensure every meeting you attend – or lead – is worthwhile. Having effective meetings is not rocket science. It’s a few simple meeting rules that will help you have productive and effective meetings – you will save time and money and participants will leave energized.

As many of you I also have had times that I would pay thousands just to have extra five-minutes to complete a task. One of the most influential thinkers for me, José Mujica said: “When I buy something, when you buy something, you’re not paying money for it. You’re paying with the hours of your life you had to spend earning that money. The difference is that life is one thing money can’t buy. Life only gets shorter.” After going through many struggles I’ve came across a useful framework that keeps me on track. Here’s the shorter version of golden rules for meeting that you and every participant must be aware of before and in the beginning of meeting:

  1. Intention – What’s the intention of the meeting?
  2. Desired objectives – What are the desired objectives of the meeting?
  3. Agenda –  What the agenda of the meeting look like?
  4. Rules – What are the “game” rules of the meeting?
  5. Time-frame – When is the start and the end of the meeting? How the time will be allocated for different points in the agenda?

That’s the shorter and extremely useful framework that will keep your meeting and the participants on track.

There’s more advanced version of the golden meeting rules developed by MeetingKing which says there are three stages around meetings: preparation, the actual meeting and follow-up. Neglecting the preparation and follow-up make the actual meeting a waste of time.

Here is the golden rules of meeting from MeetingKing:

  • Define a clear goal
  • Select participants
  • Decide the form of the meeting (in person or phone or web conference)
  • Set date and start and end time
  • Distribute agenda and provide supporting material in time
  • Demand that everyone is prepared
  • Designate one person to take notes during the meeting. Consider rotating this function.
Actual Meeting
  • Start on time
  • Repeat the goal of the meeting
  • Provide updates on tasks from previous meeting(s) if applicable
  • Follow to the agenda, stay on time
  • Stay focused, place new topics on parking lot for next meeting
  • Take clear brief notes and distinguish between informational notes and decisions
  • Assign tasks, assign each task to one person and set due date
  • At the end of the meeting:
    • summarize all decisions and tasks
    • schedule follow-up meeting if required
  • end on time
  • Distribute minutes as soon as possible
  • Communicate tasks to task owners
  • Track tasks and follow-up if not completed by due date
  • File minutes in a place where you can easily find them
Ground rules

Ground rules create a productive environment where everyone can contribute in a meaningful way.

  • No cell phones
  • Demand proper preparation
  • No side conversations
  • Attendance means participation
  • It is OK to have different opinions, but communicate a unified decision outward
  • Make sure tasks are executed

Share this meeting checklist with your network and let’s save our precious time and resources and have much productive meetings with tangible outcomes.