There are two goals of every business meeting:
- Come to good decisions quickly. Decisions don't need to be perfect - test outcomes quickly, and adjust as needed.
- Improve the relationships of people in the room. This sounds like an unusual rule, but if you want to create a high performing scaleable company, you need to always strengthen the trust of the team, so that people can effectively amplify and strengthen good ideas from others. Watch carefully interactions in your meetings. Do you notice that men interrupt women more than women interrupt men? Fix shit like that. Make sure all capable people get a voice at all meetings.
Here are other techniques I use in running meetings.
Meetings must start and end on time. One of the execs at Lola asks late comers to do ten pushups. Other companies make late comers put in $1 or $5 to a beer fund jar.
Smaller meetings are better than bigger meetings. If someone is not actively helping a meeting, they are hurting the meeting. There are exceptions, where some meetings are about information sharing. But meetings where decisions will be made should be done with the smallest possible number of people - two or three is ideal. No great invention has ever come out of a room of ten people - that would guarantee that good ideas get watered down.
Don't let people look at their laptops or phones during a meeting. This makes them nonproductive and also sucks energy out of the room. If someone can't pay attention and add value, literally boot them from the meeting.
Always have an agenda published ahead of time. I use Google Documents for this, and let any meeting member add suggested items to the agenda. Often each suggested item has a link to a specification of proposal. If an item doesn't get discussed in a meeting due to time constraints, use the agenda document as a rolling agenda to pickup for the next meeting.
Do not go around the room and ask each person to provide an update. That is mind numbing and time wasteful, and is better done by email or slack.
Have a secretary for each meeting. This is the most powerful role. This person edits the agenda live in the meeting, presented on the wall so all can see. For each agenda item (often stated as a bullet in the agenda), live edit a sub-bullet with the outcomes of that agenda item. This way the meeting minutes are completed and published before people walk out of the room. The secretary should be someone who can type quickly, and who can synthesize input concisely. Publish an assigned driver for each action item.
See also: time management.