Everyone’s time is valuable, do you really need to schedule that meeting?

Do I really need to schedule that meeting framework

Serious question, when was the last time you left a meeting and felt like it was an effective use of your time? And I don’t necessarily mean jumping high fives and confetti, but genuinely feeling better after a meeting than you felt going into it.

Technology has made it easier than ever to stuff our coworker’s calendars with invites, and setting up a “quick meeting” has become as second nature as snapping a selfie.

There have been a lot of articles written about how to make meetings more engaging, productive, and effective, but I feel like most meetings end up being a waste of time for a couple of core reasons.

The first is because people are busy and don’t make the time to prepare appropriately. I say “make” because everyone is busy, and sending a calendar invite with a generic subject line is easier than thinking through the goals and objectives you, as the meeting owner, hope to accomplish. So, attendees show up to meetings unsure of the purpose and goals, and the time wasting begins.

Another challenge is that there are a significant number of people out there who have little respect for other people’s time and intrinsically believe their needs are the most important thing in the world. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, but at the end of the day the lack of empathy and respect for other people’s time is often the culprit.

One of my biggest pet peeves in life is getting my time wasted. So, I created this question framework to help meeting owners take a minute to focus on what they hope to accomplish before reflexively sending out that next generic meeting invite.

As the meeting owner, your goal should be to strive to make the best use of the meeting attendees’ time.

So, with that in mind. Let’s take a look at a question framework you can use to determine if the meeting you are preparing to schedule should just be an email.

Q1: In a single sentence, can you describe the current situation and why you think a meeting is necessary?

I want to be clear, because this is going to be a recurring theme. The goal of this question is to ensure that you, the meeting owner, are clear on why you think people should share their precious time with you.

At first glance, this questions sounds simple enough. But, I need you to do me a favor and take a look at your calendar. Check out the invites for the next three or four meetings you have on your schedule and answer the following questions for each:

  • Do you have a clear understanding of the goal(s) and/or objective(s) of the meeting?
  • Are you 100% confident that you need to attend, and that it will be a productive use of your time?
  • Has the meeting owner painted a clear picture of what they hope to accomplish?

If your answer is yes to all of these questions… Awesome!

If you’re unsure, or if the invites you reviewed read like a prompt from a book of business Mad Libs, it’s okay you’re not alone.

You can listen to the audio version of this section -> here

Q2: Do you have a clear list of goals/objectives for the meeting?

Now that you have a clear idea of why people should share their time with you, let’s take a look at what you hope to accomplish with the time you plan to spend together.

This doesn’t need to be a long labor intensive activity, but I am always amazed by the sheer number of meetings that get scheduled without a clear goal or objective.

I get it, you’re busy and you just want to “put some time on the calendar.” All I am suggesting here is that you take it a step further and spend a minute or two thinking through what you hope to accomplish during the meeting.

In addition, the objectives you outline will serve as a guide to keep your conversations on track and help you reach your end goal(s).

Answering the following questions will be beneficial not only to you, as the meeting owner, but also to the invitees that will most likely be rapidly context switching in order to get up to speed with what is going on.

  • What problem, challenge, or situation do I hope to resolve by scheduling a meeting?
  • What do we need to accomplish during the meeting for me to consider it a success?
  • What topics need to be discussed during the meeting and why?

You can listen to the audio version of this section -> here

Q3: Who are you planning to invite and why do they need to attend?

Few things are more frustrating than sitting through the entirety of a meeting only to realize at the end that you didn’t need to attend.

But, as a responsible meeting owner, you won’t subject your invitees to this frustration and pain because you are going to try your best to ensure that you only invite the people who truly need to be there.

If you have made it this far, you should have a clear idea of what you hope to accomplish with the precious time people have agreed to share with you. Now, let’s take a look at the categories of people you will typically be reaching out to.

People attend meetings for all sorts of reasons, but at the end of the day attendees typically only fall into a couple of key categories. Understanding these categories will help you optimize your invite list and streamline the overall meeting experience.

Some of the typical attendee categories include:

  • Approvers: People that are needed to make decisions (ex. executives and other leaders)
  • Contributors: People needed to share their knowledge and expertise (ex. SMEs)
  • Need to Knows: People who need to be informed and/or aware of the information that is being shared during the meeting
  • FOMOs: People who want to be involved in everything, due to their fear of missing out

So, what category do your attendees fall into?

For example, If one of your meeting goals is to make an important decision. Have you invited the necessary contributors and approvers?

This is another reason why defining your meeting goals and objectives before you ask people to share their time with you is so critical.

Again, this should be a relatively straight forward task that will leave you with a list of names that you can be confident in.

You can listen to the audio version of this section -> here

Q4. Are there nuances to the situation that will be easier to articulate in real-time, whether in-person or via video call?

I’m sure you’ve heard the joke, or seen the memes, about meetings that could/should have been emails. And if you haven’t you can take a look at one here.

All memes aside, there are more than a handful of legitimate reasons to schedule a meeting. That being said, often times you can achieve the same goals and objectives more efficiently through email, instant messaging, or a quick phone call.

Answering a couple of questions beforehand can mean the difference between having a productive meeting and scheduling a meeting that should have been an email.

  • As the meeting owner, is one of your goals to disseminate information that doesn’t require a discussion?

And when I say discussion, I don’t mean a person waiting until the end of the group meeting to ask a question that has an answer that is only relevant to them. I mean a genuine back and forth conversation between the meeting attendees.

  • Is there a need to collaborate, in real-time, with the meeting attendees?

For example, will you be brainstorming ideas, working as a group to create a plan of action and/or attempting to come to a consensus decision on a major initiative?

If you were able to confidently answer yes to the second bulleted question, then proceed to step five. If your answer was no, or you were hesitant, take a moment to see if there is a more effective way to accomplish your objectives that doesn’t involve scheduling a meeting.

Your coworkers will appreciate it, and you can sleep well knowing that you’ve done everything you could to be mindful of wasting other people’s time.

You can listen to the audio version of this section -> here

Send that meeting invite

You did it! You made the time to think through the “why” before hitting send. You can launch that meeting invite with confidence, just be sure to include the goals and objectives along with the single sentence description you defined earlier.

Before you go, I have one final recommendation. Proactive communication about scheduling changes, delays, or even just taking a minute to let people know when you are running late will show you care and taking the time to do the little things will truly make a difference.

We’re all adjusting to a new normal and empathy for one another is going to be more important than ever.

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