Efficiency in Meetings: What America’s Top Companies Can Teach You

Your eyelids are growing heavy. The thought of work? Leaving your brain. You’re ready to drift off to sleep. No,

3 min. read

Your eyelids are growing heavy. The thought of work? Leaving your brain. You’re ready to drift off to sleep.

No, I’m not talking about those peaceful moments after you crawl into your warm bed at night. I’m talking about a bad meeting.

We’ve all been there, right? Sitting in a room (maybe it’s too small, maybe too hot), listening to somebody drone on about something that really isn’t that important. And when it isn’t a source of boredom, it’s a source of stress: Think of all that work that needs doing!

I mean, come on: Executives now spend an average of almost 23 hours a week in meetings. That’s more than half a normal workweek.

Thankfully, there are better ways to handle meetings in your company. Here’s some advice from 5 of America’s top brands.

1. Meeting advice from Facebook: Distribute meeting materials advance.

According to Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg has two keys rules for meetings at Facebook. The first? Distribute materials to meeting participants in advance. That way, the meeting time can be used for discussion.

The second rule is related: Be clear about about what the meeting is meant for. Is everybody there to actually have a discussion? Or is the goal to make a decision? This distinction can help drive your agenda.

2. Meeting advice from Tesla: If you don’t have anything to say, walk out of the meeting.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has plenty of thoughts on meetings. Don’t host long ones (they’re the “blight of big companies,” he says). And don’t host frequent meetings either (“Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved”).

But his most aggressive meeting advice? When you don’t have anything to say, walk out: “Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave. It is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

3. Meeting advice from Macy’s: Start meetings exactly on time.

Macy’s chairman Terry Lundgren doesn’t have any patience for tardiness: “If the meeting is at 8, you’re not here at 8:01, you’re here at 8, because the meeting’s going to start at 8… Busy people that can’t get off the last phone call to get there, [need to] discipline themselves to be there on time.”

Lundgren claims this rigid policy is important because a strict schedule helps teams accomplish what’s on their agenda and gets them back to their work that much faster.

4. Meeting advice from Google: Every meeting needs a leader.

In a recent book, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg (both former Google executives) share some of the Silicon Valley giant’s best practices for meetings. One of their biggest pieces of advice? Every meeting needs a leader: “A meeting between two groups of equals often doesn’t result in a good outcome, because you end up compromising rather than making the best tough decisions.”

Even meetings that are just meant to share information need a leader. Without one, they often turn into an agenda-less waste of time.

5. Meeting advice from Amazon: Don’t invite too many people.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and the world’s richest man, believes large meetings are often the least productive. To figure out how large is too large, just use Bezos’ handy “two pizza rule”: “Never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn’t feed the entire group.”

Simple enough. (We’ll get back to you when we figure out how to translate the pizza rule into tacos).

What about you? What rules does your company have for increasing efficiency in meetings? Let us know in the comments below!



Danielle Sutton

Let's Work Together