Characteristics that distinguish the useful meetings from the rest are:
1. Everyone attending was convinced that nothing on the agenda could be addressed without the meeting. Most things don’t require meetings — email will do. Pretending to need people’s input does not require a meeting; just announce the decision that’s already been made. But some things require human interaction and collaborative thinking. Like problems we don’t have solutions to yet or conflicts that have not been fully explored. If we need to take time to let creative solutions emerge, a meeting may be needed.
2. Everyone necessary was fully there, that is, attending a meeting is in the sense of paying attention, not sending their bodies as proxy for their minds. This is accomplished by agendas that focus on decisions that make a difference.
3. Agreement had been achieved on what we’ll accomplish and the kinds of conversations we’ll use to get results. What will the deliverables be? Information sharing? Traffic management? Decisions? Preliminary decisions for further research? Decide so we’re all going to work toward delivering what we owe each other? What kind of conversations? Issues that we need to explore or conclude?
Great meetings are not only pointed at getting things done, but at creating an atmosphere of reflection, focus, and collaboration. They deal with the current need and they create the conditions for further development of a sense of community and common purpose.
Summing-up: The meetings that are productive accomplish what could not have been achieved without them.