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9 Rules for Better Meetings

Trying to fight inefficiency? Keeping business meetings on topic and on schedule is like expanding your workforce without increasing payroll.


Many (if not most) business meetings waste time and therefore money, according to Michael St. Lawrence, author of the best-selling book If You're Not Out Selling, You're Being Outsold.

To ensure that a business meeting is efficient and productive, he recommends that the participants agree to adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Be on time.
  2. Conduct one conversation at a time; avoid "sidebar" discussions.
  3. Respect the opinions of others.
  4. Respond to the topic.
  5. Be solution-minded: When you identify a problem, suggest a solution.
  6. Don't try to derail the meeting.
  7. Do not attack other participants.
  8. Avoid introducing tangential topics.
  9. Observe time limits, and end the meeting as scheduled.

I estimate that by instituting these guidelines, you get the practical equivalent of increasing your workforce by 10% or even more--but without increasing payroll costs.

The savings are even more dramatic inside those firms (and there are many) that suffer from "meeting-itis."

One word of warning, however: To actually work, these guidelines must be enforced from the top down.

If the executive team behaves as if they're too important to follow the rules, the result will be the opposite of that intended--and wasting other people's time will be seen as an exercise in executive status. Don't laugh. I've seen it happen.

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Last updated: Aug 1, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES did a lot of business stuff and wrote a slew of articles and books. Now he writes this column. Preorder his new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, by May 12 and get an exclusive bonus chapter and a signed bookplate.

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