Given the number of meetings executives lead and are involved in, it’s not surprising that some of our most famous CEOs have pretty clear ideas about what it takes to run meetings well.
Here are some of our favorites.
- Eliminate big meetings. "Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you're certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short."
- Do you really need those “routinely scheduled meetings” or frequent meetings? "Unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter, meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved."
- Feel Free to Leave. "Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time."
- Pick the best time. Bezos has said, "I like to do my high-IQ meetings before lunch. Anything that's going to be really mentally challenging--that's a 10 o'clock meeting.”
- Review the background material. Rather than using PowerPoint, Amazon executives sit “silently for about 30 minutes to read a "six-page memo that's narratively structured with real sentences, topic sentences, verbs, and nouns." Then the team has a robust conversation about the topic at hand.
- What’s the meeting’s purpose? To get to the heart of the meeting’s purpose, Oprah asks three questions: "What is our intention for this meeting? What's important? What matters?"
Alfred Sloan, CEO of GM
- Master the follow up email. Sloan followed up meetings with a short memo with a summary of the meeting, specified action items and deadlines for participants.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
The “Lean In” author is well known for the attention to detail of her meetings. She
- Has an agenda for every meeting in her spiral notebook,
- Only meets for as long as is required. If the meeting is scheduled for an hour, but all the agenda items are addressed in 20, then the meeting is over.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Jobs had a philosophy about meeting size that is similar to Google’s Larry Page and Bezos: keep the meeting small. Jobs particularly believed that too many people in the room bogs down the discussion and decision-making process.
Alphabet’s CEO Larry Page
- Schedule important meetings immediately. Page says that if a meeting has to be held in order to make a decision, then schedule the meeting right away. Otherwise, just make the decision. "No decision should ever wait for a meeting.”
- Who’s the boss? Every meeting must have a clear decision maker. No more than 10 people should attend the meeting, and everyone there should be there for a purposeful reason to contribute. Otherwise, they shouldn’t be there.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg
- What’s the homework? Ask your employees to send materials in advance so the meeting focuses on discussion, rather than rehashing basic information.
- Set a clear goal or outcome for the meeting. This can serve as the starting point of the discussion, and help keep the meeting from straying off topic.
Richard Branson, Virgin Airlines
- Try a moving meeting. Standing meetings (or “walk and talks” as I’ve heard them called as well) can be engaging, interactive – and are typically shorter than most meetings.
- Think of ways to help capture ideas – such as using a dictation app to take notes or reminders for follow up tasks.
What famous leaders’ advice about running meetings have you heard that should be added to this list?
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