Best practices for meetings

Meetings are critical for businesses to succeed and many people spend most of their time in them. However, at the same time many people say the meetings they attend are ineffective and a waste of their time. Creating effective meetings through the use of agendas, meetings roles, and many other tactics can ensure that something that is done so frequently can also bring value with it.

Why it matters

How to boost your team’s productivity explains that "helping your team manage its time well is a critical factor for its success."

How to establish a meeting-free day each week explains: "By giving yourself one meeting-free day per week, you reduce the context switching that can slow down dedicated project work."

The condensed guide to running meetings explains a few new ideas that can help make your meetings more effective:

  • "If you want people to have the opportunity to contribute, you need to limit attendance."
  • "Social psychology research has shown that when people perform group tasks (such as brainstorming or discussing information in a meeting), they show a sizable decrease in individual effort than when they perform alone.”
  • "Research shows that there are advantages to keeping [meetings] shorter."
  • "Having everyone contribute isn’t just good for creating more effective meetings but for the participants themselves as well."

The Stop the meeting madness article explains what 182 senior managers in a range of industries said about meetings when surveyed:

  • "65 percent said meetings keep them from completing their own work."
  • "71 percent said meetings are unproductive and inefficient."
  • "64 percent said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking."
  • "62 percent said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together."

Polite ways to decline a meeting invitation explains that your "first challenge is deciding which meetings to decline. A little discipline goes a long way here. Establish a set of criteria for participation and stick with it."

According to If you multitask during meetings, your team will, too: “Managers that frequently send emails during meetings are, according to our analysis, are 2.2 times more likely to have direct reports who also multi-task in meetings.”

Best practices

  • Say no to meetings. See Set team meeting rules and policy for a guide on how to create a policy.
  • Use MyAnalytics to shorten meetings. For example, when you're composing a meeting invitation with a duration of one hour, an inline suggestion will remind you to shorten the meeting by 15 minutes.
  • Use the MyAnalytics Insights to prepare for meetings. It provides insights about meeting information, related documents, and reminders to book preparation time.
  • Invite fewer people. When preparing the agenda, include the purpose of each participant's attendance. This exercise can reveal unnecessary invitees, including people who are optional or only require meeting notes.
  • Use Teams and OneNote to share meeting notes. Employees can share meeting notes with decisions and action items with managers as an alternative way to keep them informed.
  • Enable Manager insights in Workplace Analytics to help managers identify ways to improve team behavior.
  • Regularly and openly check in with employees to discuss challenges and help your team correct its course. Changing behaviors takes time and is often difficult to do. Don't forget to celebrate wins, even small ones.
  • Share 6 tips for handling scheduling conflicts.
  • Require meeting agendas with clear objectives. Frame agenda topics as questions to focus and prime discussions, and break the agenda into 15-minute segments to hold attention.
  • When preparing the meeting agenda, include the role of each invitee. The exercise helps minimize the number of attendees by revealing unnecessary invitees, including people who are optional or only require meeting notes.
  • Shorter meetings are often as or more productive than longer meetings. Keep meetings as short as possible, but don’t rush through important conversations either.
  • Discourage the use of devices in meetings. It's distracting for those who use the devices and those who participate in the meetings.
  • Try holding stand-up meetings. Studies show they are about 34 percent shorter than sit-down meetings yet produce the same solutions.
  • Encourage participation in meetings. It's beneficial for creating more effective meetings and giving participants a way to be heard and considered.
  • Avoid holding a meeting just to update people. Decide if an email or a Teams announcement is enough.

Change strategies

Schedule shorter meetings

Work expands to the time allotted for it. Change meeting length defaults from 60 to 45 minutes and from 30 to 25 minutes. Ways to do this:

  • Send out a communication informing employees about the downside of endless, back-to-back meetings. Share with them insights around how much collaboration the average employee is experiencing.
  • Encourage employees to schedule meetings that have buffers for attendees to capture notes and take a break before their next meeting
  • Start yourself, employees will follow the lead of others, especially leaders.

Prepare thoughtful agendas

Agendas should clearly state meeting goals and the purpose of each participant's attendance. Frame agenda topics as questions to focus and prime discussion. Ways to do this:

  • Generate an agenda template and share it during an all-hands meeting.
  • Encourage leaders to ensure their meetings use the template, role-modeling the behavior to others.
  • Utilize the template during large meetings to expose it to wide audiences. Share the template along with the meeting agenda when possible.

Set team meeting rules and policy

  • Take an employee survey to gather data and impressions about the organization's meeting frequency and its impact on how much work is or isn't getting done during the day.
  • Come together as a team to share everyone's feedback. It's important to process all contributions and analysis from all team members to begin the process of change.
  • Agree on a collective, personal goal based on the survey feedback. For example, declare "meeting free" periods to free up time on everyone's calendar. This increases individual focus time and productivity and reduces the spill over into personal time.
  • Set standards for when an employee can decline a meeting. Provide a meeting decline template with policy explanations that employees can use to decline meetings based on your team’s meeting rules. For example, "the meeting has no agenda" or "someone from my team is already attending the meeting."
  • Create and share your team’s list of meeting rules along with an empowering message that allows employees to say yes or no to meeting invitations they deem valuable or not to attend.

Workplace Analytics best practices