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Awesome Meetings: How many people should be invited?

Do you feel that you're necessary for all of the meetings you're invited (forced?) to join? If you can't give a clear and loud YES!, then you weren't probably needed and could have saved time. In fact, meeting fatigue is a growing epidemic among startups and small companies.

What is meeting fatigue? One thing I hear from colleagues working at other companies is we don't have time for work, because there are so many meetings. While effective and constructive meetings are important for keeping the team aligned and involved, in a majority of the cases they could have been replaced by a memo or an email. This leads in turn to hours of unproductive talking, boredom, and detachment. Low motivation caused by meeting fatigue is a recipe for a disaster!

Who should join my meeting? As a rule of thumb we recommend including the following groups of people:

  • Organizer and/or facilitator of the meeting: it's most likely you and somebody appointed to facilitate the meeting (most of the time it will be… also you),
  • Decision makers: people making decisions must be involved in the meeting to be fully informed,
  • Expert data sources: people providing data, information, or perspective that might also provide expert analysis and answer questions that couldn't be answered otherwise.

Everyone, like the rest of the team is not necessary. They won't add to the meeting, nor they will decide anything. They will get bored and space off. They can be easily updated after the meeting with notes or a memo (that's a topic for another time!)

Benefit of small meetings: saving time. Let's say you plan to have a one-hour meeting involving six people. One thing to remember is that a one-hour meeting for six people is six hours of work: while it takes only an hour, the actual manpower cost will be a total of six hours of productivity. Not including the cognitive cost of time just before and * just after* the meeting, when people are either postponing work for later or trying to get up to speed.

Benefit of small meetings: ease of moderation. Imagine a lively discussion between six people. Or everyone presenting their idea for two minutes. One thing to expect is a lot of noise, second: waiting time. Smaller meetings are easier to manage and moderate: everyone will have enough time to make their argument, listen to the other speakers, and cooperate.

Benefit of small meetings: better focus. What is better: a long meeting with lots of breaks, or a short and decisive meeting? Smaller meetings go straight to the point because it's easier to align the vision of just a few people. Especially when they are engaged.

Meeting fatigue is a serious issue in organizations of any size and can severely impact team productivity and individual motivation. With a smart approach to meetings, like a clear agenda, it can be avoided entirely.

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