Never put up with low engagement meetings

Engagement level is a decent proxy for the value of a meeting. If most of the people are engaged, it’s usually valuable. If they’re not, it’s usually a waste of time.

Think of the recurring meeting on your calendar with the lowest engagement, and try these options for fixing it. They’re in order of most to least aggressive in terms of freeing up people’s time.

  1. Trash the meeting. This should always be the first pass. Does the meeting really need to exist? Like, really really? What’s the worst that would happen if you killed it?
  2. Make it asynchronous. If it’s too important to trash it completely, then how about making it an email or a doc with comments or a Basecamp or Slack thread?
  3. Make it less frequent. Engagement will plummet if nothing much has changed since last time. Try meeting half as often.
  4. Make it shorter. Sometimes knowing that you’re going to be sitting there forever kills the vibe. Cut the time in half and see if that ups the engagement level.
  5. Remove people. The difference between a 10-person meeting and a 4-person meeting is huge. Remove anyone who isn’t critical and observe as the quality of the discussion improves.
  6. Change the format. If you can’t meet less or remove people, then try a different format. For low engagement discussion meetings, Lean Coffee can help.
  7. Add people. And finally, my least favorite because it means you’re actually using MORE company time instead of less. But sometimes it’s necessary. Maybe the key decision maker is missing and nobody feels like it’s worth debating without them. Or maybe you need some different points of view so that the meeting isn’t just choir preaching.

Whatever you do, never put up with a low engagement meeting. Time is too precious for that garbage. Fix your broken meetings.

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