The two minute rule for a successful meeting

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jul 24

We all have a lot of meetings during our day. I don’t know about you, but I can go from meeting to meeting to meeting with nary a break. After a while, it all kinda becomes a blur. It doesn’t have to.

The problem with those blurry meetings is that over time, you become highly reactive. And not proactive. You end up fighting fires instead of working on what you want to work on. That leads to disengagement about the work you are doing as well as the business goals you are trying to achieve.

Even though you are bouncing from meeting to meeting, you still have the opportunity to have success if you follow this two minute meeting rule:

For every meeting, take one minute to prep and one minute to review.

To be clear, this is not easy. When every meeting is back to back and running right up to the end time, it’s hard to prep and hard to review — even if each of those activities takes less than a minute to do.

Getting the discipline to prep and review is a job skill that needs to be acquired through discipline and practice. I’m not very good at doing this either. At least consistently. And it is the consistency that makes the practice worth it.

What’s the prep? And what’s the review? Let’s take a look.

Understand what you want out of the meeting

If you’re going to take all the time to attend the meeting, the least you can do is figure out what you want to get out of it. Is it:

  • A decision to move ahead with some action?
  • A clarification of your role in the work being discussed?
  • A challenge about doing the work at all?
  • Learning about a new project and how it will impact your role?
  • Or maybe simply to walk out of the meeting with no more tasks assigned to you?

There are a hundred other things you could want as well. But not knowing what you want to have the meeting accomplish for you is simply abdicating any role you have in the meeting. By defining for yourself what you want out of the meeting creates a criteria for a successful meeting — for you.

Review the attendee’s in the meeting and their probable agenda

If you don’t know the positions of the people coming to the meeting, how will you influence them to get what you want out of the meeting? Reviewing their positions before getting into the meeting will help you focus on overcoming their objections, supporting their positions, or helping them make a decision that you need made.

In a perfect world, you would have known their positions before the meeting and figured out how the meeting would go before it even starts. But few of us have that kind of time available to us, so normally the best we can do is divine the positions people will take and know how to overcome objections.

There’s your minute of prep. Not too bad, right?

What about a minute to review?

Understand your next actions needed from the meeting

What are next actions?

  • Tasks that you need to do
  • Commitments made by the participants

Understand that most meeting managers never figure this out. And everyone walks out of the room not knowing what commitments were made in the meeting — except that all the commitments were for someone else!

That just creates ongoing chaos with everyone not understanding who is doing what.

The deal is, you can get this done as part of the meeting itself. About five minutes before the meeting ends, it’s a good time to review the action items that were assigned to people. Plus the commitments made by the people in the room. You can do that, even if you are not the meeting organizer.

If you take decent notes during the meeting — and ask clarifying questions during the meeting (“To clarify, that means James is going to email us the inventory breakdown by Tuesday?”) goes a long way to focusing on tasks to complete.

Plus, at the end of the meeting, you can summarize what YOU are responsible for from the discussions. And maybe that’s nothing. Or maybe it’s three things. But when you get that out there, it clearly gets rid of assumptions other people may have about what you are supposed to do. And everyone will have assumptions about what you are supposed to do, none of them matching what actually needs to get done. So clarify what you are supposed to do.

After that is done, take a minute to review your next actions associated with the meeting. If you’re like me, you think you take great notes. Then you read them a day later and they look like hieroglyphics written on stone tablets.

Thus, in the moment right after the meeting, look at your next actions and get them into complete sentences and what the actual deliverable is that you are supposed to do before you forget.

Make meetings work for you and not against you

Like I said, looks simple, but hard to implement consistently. The way to get this going is to do a 30-day challenge: for every meeting you attend, write down what you want out of the meeting and then what your next actions are from the meeting taking no more than two minutes to do so. Then watch how much better your work becomes because you have clarity around the commitments that come from meetings.