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9 Basic Principles of an Efficient Meeting You Must Know

9 Basic Principles of an Efficient Meeting You Must Know

Switching between conference calls, brainstorming sessions, and status updates has drained your time and energy. If you’re reading this article, it’s because your goal is the same as mine: not to waste time and energy.

Most executives spend 40% to 50% of their working hours in meetings. And most professionals believe that at least half of that meeting time is wasted. Meetings aren’t the problem—the surplus and ineffective ones are.

Collaborative meetings are crucial for driving projects forward, especially in areas like product development, marketing, design, and innovation, which rely on cross-functional teamwork.

So, how do you design and facilitate engaging and productive meetings? In this article, we’ll dive into the 10 basic principles of efficient meetings. 

Your AI-powered meeting assistant — Huddles

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Principle 1 – No Meetings Without Clear Objectives

  • Everyone must understand what needs to be achieved for the meeting to conclude.
  • If a meeting doesn’t achieve its objectives, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Don’t call a meeting if you haven’t clearly defined its purpose.
  • Don’t attend a meeting if you’re unsure of its objectives.

Every meeting needs a specific purpose that everyone understands. If a meeting doesn’t achieve its goals, it’s just a waste of time. Don’t hold or go to meetings unless you know exactly what they’re for. For example, a team leader organizes a meeting to go over the launch plan for a new product, making sure everyone knows what they need to do afterward.

Principle 2 – Anyone Optional Shouldn’t Attend

  • The more people there are, the less efficient the meeting will be.
  • Make sure you are highly relevant to the meeting’s topic (in other words, the meeting can’t proceed smoothly without you).
  • If you can’t contribute, leave the meeting immediately.
  • Avoid large meetings, especially those for mere announcements.
  • If you don’t have to speak at all, skip the meeting. Instead, watch a sped-up recording or read the minutes afterward.

Keep meetings efficient by inviting only those who are essential. If you’re not directly involved, it’s better to get the highlights later through recordings or notes. This prevents meetings from being too crowded and unfocused, like when only certain team members need to discuss a project but others are invited just because.

Principle 3 – Focus on Conclusions and Outputs

  • Meetings are essentially a business model where time is traded for conclusions.
  • Don’t hold meetings that don’t yield conclusions.
  • At the end of each agenda item, check for any conclusions that need documenting.
  • Categorize the output: next steps, decisions, key points, rules, agreements.

Meetings should result in valuable takeaways. Don’t have meetings that don’t lead to clear actions or decisions. Make sure you conclude each agenda item with a definite outcome or next step, such as deciding on a budget allocation after a discussion.

Principle 4 – Be Clear About What You Need

  • Don’t just talk about problems without proposing solutions; Don’t state needs without explaining why.
  • Clearly categorize your needs; otherwise, others might misunderstand.

When you bring up problems, also suggest possible solutions and clearly state your needs. This helps avoid confusion and makes discussions more productive. For instance, if someone points out a delay in production, they should also propose a way to fix it, encouraging useful dialogue.

Principle 5 – No Meetings Without an Agenda

  • Make sure there’s an agenda before the meeting.
  • Create the agenda collaboratively; everyone brings the topics they want to discuss.
  • The agenda must have allotted times, and these should be timed during the meeting.
  • Prioritize the agenda items, discussing the most important matters first.

A well-planned agenda is key to a successful meeting. Work together to create it and make sure it includes timed discussions for the most important topics. This ensures you tackle the big issues first, like focusing on the major risks to a project at the beginning of a meeting.

Principle 6 – Agile Collaboration, Always Focus on Moving Forward

  • Assign a responsible person (@name) and a deadline (DDL) for actions identified during the discussion.
  • The shorter the cycle of the task, the better.
  • For recurring meetings, the first item on the agenda should be to review whether the actions from the last meeting were completed.
  • In a self-management context, anyone can assign tasks to anyone based on their roles and responsibilities.

Assign clear tasks and deadlines during meetings. Aim for quick task completion and check on progress regularly. A good example is assigning someone to investigate a new business opportunity, with a report due back in a week.

Principle 7 – Agile Decision Making: Good Enough for Now, Safe Enough to Try

  • Beware of the perfectionism trap; the perfect plan or solution is an illusion.
  • It’s not necessary to find an answer that satisfies everyone or to reach consensus on everything. That’s too slow and too difficult.
  • Ask clarifying questions first, then provide feedback and suggestions.
  • Use “Do you object?” instead of “Do you agree?”
  • Embrace holistic rather than binary thinking.

Don’t get stuck trying to make everything perfect. Choose options that are good enough to move forward with. This is like deciding to test a new software temporarily rather than waiting indefinitely for the perfect solution.

Principle 8 – Make Sure There’s a Professional Facilitator

  • Don’t start a meeting without knowing who the facilitator is.
  • Don’t assume that leaders, project managers, HR business partners, or assistants are automatically the facilitators.
  • The four key roles of a facilitator:

Having a skilled facilitator is crucial for keeping the meeting focused and productive. This role isn’t just for anyone in a leadership position but should be given to someone capable, such as bringing in an external expert for strategic planning.

Principle 9 – Meetings Should End on Time by Default

  • As the meeting nears its end, the facilitator should consciously pick up the pace.
  • Encourage brevity and staying on topic (e.g. limiting speaking time to 3 minutes).
  • Encourage participants to defer non-critical or non-urgent topics to the next meeting or to after the meeting.

Keeping to a schedule is important for ending meetings on time. Facilitators should keep discussions brief and to the point, putting off less urgent matters. This respects everyone’s time, like making sure a weekly update doesn’t run over the allotted 30 minutes.

Make Your Meetings Efficient with Huddles!

Do you find the principles for efficient meetings we’ve shared in this article helpful? These principles are designed for agile teams and are rooted in over 10 years of my experience coaching agile and self-managed teams.

Huddles.app is an AI-powered tool for managing meetings and taking notes, built around these principles. We’ve made it easy to improve your meeting efficiency using our platform, and we offer templates that have been proven effective by successful companies. You’re welcome to try Huddles now or schedule a free demo with us.

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