How to make work meetings more productive

What if you didn’t have to attend another one of those drawn out, unproductive meetings? XO Group CEO and “The Career Manifesto” author Mike Steib told Monster how you can make your meetings matter.

How to make work meetings more productive

Imagine a world in which you didn’t have to sit through another long, boring meeting that you could probably care less about. How much more could you get done with all of that extra time?

This isn’t an idle question, says Mike Steib, author of The Career Manifesto: Discover Your Calling and Create an Extraordinary Life. “The average person attends 62 meetings per month, with 90% of us multitasking or daydreaming through them,” he says. That amounts to 50 hours per year, or about a full workweek. “Those meetings need to be better than all of the amazing things you could do with an extra week added to your life,” Steib declares.

As CEO of media and tech company XO Group (the parent company of popular apps, including The Knot and The Bump), Steib says he coaches his team on “some of the most common challenges people face in their careers.” His new book covers everything from big-picture, long-term career planning to everyday, nuts-and-bolts tactics for making a bigger impact at work right now.

“These are all things I wish someone had helped me with when I was starting out,” says Steib, who was an executive at Google and NBC Universal/General Electric and launched a string of startups before landing his current job. He is donating all proceeds from this book to Literacy Partners, a New York City–based nonprofit that offers free classes to low-income children and adults.

Monster recently spoke with Steib about how you can make the most out of your work meetings.

Q. Why do you view most meetings as a waste of time?

A. Have you ever walked into a meeting where someone says, “So, what should we discuss today?” That meeting should never have been scheduled. The only reason to meet is to get something done. No meeting should be on anyone’s calendar without a specific purpose—that is, a clearly defined decision or other action that needs to happen by a stated deadline.

Q. In the book, you offer a list of steps for a productive meeting. What are a few crucial things everyone should do when planning a meeting?

A. The first one, which has been in use for years at companies like Apple, is a directly responsible individual, or “DRI,” meaning one person who’s accountable for the meeting—and, just as important, for following up to check on the results.

Second, you need the right attendees, which means only the people who are necessary to achieve the goal and no one else. The more people in the room, the less likely you are to have a productive and honest debate. And having someone without the relevant expertise or authority chiming into the discussion can destroy the meeting’s flow. There is no magic number, but I can tell you that if there are 12 people in the room, you are not going to get anything decided. And if you know someone who just loves to hear himself talk, don’t invite him.

Q. How important is it to set a detailed agenda beforehand, rather than winging it?

A. Very! You need a well-thought-out agenda to keep the meeting on track and force it forward. That includes a timeline, with how many minutes you want to spend on each item. Distribute the agenda in advance, so everyone who will be there has a chance to focus on it and prepare for his or her part in the conversation.

Q. What if your boss, or someone else who outranks you, is the one calling the meetings? Should you suggest these changes, and maybe volunteer to do the extra work?

A. Yes! A good manager should embrace your offer to help. Taking on the task of organizing important recurring meetings and helping to make sure it produces results, is a great way to develop your leadership skills through some extra hustle—and a great way to get noticed by the powers that be.


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Anne Fisher has been writing about career and workplace trends and topics since 1996. She is the author of If My Career’s on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map?