Few rules to get the most out of meetings.

Come prepared. A meeting should have a clear agenda, make sure you know what it is about and you have an important contribution to give. If you don’t, you can sit this out and be updated later. For 1-1 meetings, be sure you have reviewed previous history and have at least a couple of points that move the relationship forward.

Come on time. Should go without saying, yet it still happens most of the times that people are late. Actually, do not come on time. Be a few minutes early. Feel the room, exchange a word with others, make sure you are all set for the starting time.

Let the talking flow. Your turn will come, no need to rush it. Make sure you listen carefully to what is being said and are ready to speak when the time is right. Avoid interrupting, or jumping in. And if something is absolutely, incredibly urgent and needs to be said right now, get the attention of who’s speaking with body language (e.g. raise your hand) rather than by talking a higher tone.

Be polite and behave. Most likely, jokes are not welcomed. Rants aren’t as well. Stay on topic. Speak in a normal tone of voice, avoid bursting out in laugh or random hysteria. If you are leading the meeting, make sure everybody gets a fair chance to voice their opinion, yet avoid going around the room. Again, flow is important.

Keep technology to a minimum. Can’t think of a reason why phones should be allowed. If you or somebody is waiting for an important phone call, postpone the meeting. As per notebooks, if somebody has anything to present ok. Otherwise, notebooks are not necessary. In the best case scenario, they are a distraction waiting to happen (and no, your mind will to refocus on the topic discussed right after you have noticed the notification). In the worst case scenario, they create a lot of personal barriers behind which to take cover and avoid meaningful conversations. You got to take notes, you probably know how to write: take a notepad and a pen with you. And while you take notes, particularly in 1-1s, say it out loud: “I am writing this down as I feel it’s important”.

Keep it short. I am not sure what the right length of a meeting is. I can tell you, it is never more than 60 minutes. Nobody, nowadays, can be focused on one single topic, or on one single speaker, for 60 minutes. If you have multiple things to discuss, schedule multiple shorter meetings, only with the people that needs to be there. If you have to go through a lengthy document, there are probably better ways than to lock yourself in a room together. Well-prepared workshops are a great alternative. Make sure attention is high, and for this reason, keep it short. And then, make it shorter.

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