The simple question that will increase meeting effectiveness

workographI was walking past a meeting room the other day and looked in. A few people looked rather bored. Of the 10 people inside, only 6 look engaged. That’s a load of wasted time.

As mentioned in this great adaptive path blog, not only do we waste too much time in meetings. It also affects the rhythm of your day.


Working in a software company, we want to ensure that people can work without constant interruptions. Meetings are the worst offender for context switching for flow based roles.workograph 2

It made me remember a seminar I attended a while back on running effective meetings. (Ironically, the one-day training felt like a long and boring meeting, but it did leave me with one key insight I really found very valuable).

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Change you meeting’s subject line into a question:

  • Make every meeting title (on your calendar) ‘a question’. This encourages people to think about possible responses (and therefore it makes people prepare).
  • If the meeting is longer, with multiple topics, apply the same concept: make every agenda point a question
  • Who should come? The answer is, only if you feel that you can help answer the question, you should come. If not, you shouldn’t. 
  • If you decide not to come, but are on the invite list, the answer (or draft answer) to the question(s) are emailed to you. 

Example of a meeting regarding our recruitment wallboard below:

Atlassian - Calendar

A few weeks back, a manager at our company gave me another great tip, more relevant to recurring team meetings.

Send every participant a ‘one-question evaluation survey’ right after each meeting. 

  • Create a one question survey with free text field below, asking them to rate the meeting on a 1-10 scale (a simple survey tool like Wufoo will do)
  • Send it out straight after the meeting and get people to score and provide context on their response .
  • Review the scores regularly. Every person and every team is different. As a manager, you need to create the right mix in terms of actions orientation, process, information sharing, or team participation. It’s also good to understand how the group dynamics can have a different impact on different team members. It sometimes surprises me to see that most team members give a really high score while one person scores the meeting poorly. As you monitor  scores going up and down, you ultimately create the right meeting format that works for the team.
  • It’s a simple way to create buy in and a joint responsibility to make a meeting more effective.

There are more great suggestions out there:

Through a quick search on Google I found some other goodies.

  • Move meetings to the start and the end of the day
  • No agenda = no meeting – meet only with a certain goal
  • Take charge of your own calendar – be prepared to decline meetings
  • Make meetings shorter, 15 minutes only.
  • Try to get out of the meeting as soon as you can. If there’s an hour assigned and you’re decided in 25 minutes – great!
  • Trust your team – you don’t always have to be attending yourself. Trust others to make the right calls

3 comments

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  2. Pingback: Make the Agenda a Question | Rebecca Pope-Ruark, PhD

  3. Pingback: Can Asking More Questions Create Great Meetings? | Enjoying The Moment

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