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Become a Meeting Master

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Keep meetings productive with these tips

How many hours would you say you spend in meetings in an average week? Do you feel they are hours effectively spent? Are your meetings (mostly) productive?

Team meetings are essential, but we can all admit we’ve had to sit through a few terrible time-wasters. 99U gathered some interesting ideas from a few top Silicon Valley CEOs (full article here), about how to keep meetings productive, efficient, and meaningful. A few highlights:

Get to the heart of the matter

For Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, “assumptions have no place in meetings, and if you’re not ready to back up your claims, you’re not ready to present your ideas.” According to Business Insider:
“A designer or a top product manager would sit down and Mayer would assault them with a series of questions:
‘How was that researched?’
‘What was the research methodology?’
‘How did you back that up?'”

Assuming the unanswered kinks will “work themselves out” down the road can backfire, big-time. Asking detailed questions up front may result in quicker positive outcomes (and fewer follow-up meetings!).

Real components – not comparisons

This ties into the no-assumptions-allowed principle. Tesla & SpaceX CEO Elon Musk runs his meetings with “first principles thinking.” An example of this would be: “when Musk was estimating the cost of building the first SpaceX rockets, he could have simply used comparable products on the market as a benchmark. Making decisions using ‘common knowledge’ is the antithesis of first principles thinking. Instead, his team analyzed the necessary parts of a rocket, then researched the prices of the raw materials of parts firsthand. As a result, the SpaceX team was surprised to learn that they could build a rocket that cost ‘around two percent of the typical price.'”

This approach means no quick and lazy comparisons: make sure you’re starting from facts, not just familiarity with “what the other guy is doing.” It’s another tactic that will reduce the number of times everyone must return to the table to redefine scope.

Keep it small

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was a stickler for small meetings, made up of only essential players. “He wanted people to be working, not passively sitting in a boardroom. If people didn’t have a lot to contribute, they’re better off spending time somewhere else.” I know I’ve acted as more of a spectator in a few meetings and thought, “I probably could have skipped this and gotten the minutes via email.”

Read the full article for some other great insights into how to keep your meetings lean and mean. Work smart!

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