Calendar, Meeting Scheduling, Productivity

The A.M.Y. rules of (meeting) engagement

Calendar, Meeting Scheduling, Productivity

As a company that thinks about meetings constantly, we’ve heard more than a few horror stories about bad ones and we’re always on the look out for ways to make our own more productive. There are lots of good productivity guidelines out there, but we just had to set up a few of our own.

Meeting facilitators and attendees can use the easy acronym “A.M.Y.” to help them set up meetings that actually get stuff done. Each rule is designed to make sure a meeting is thoughtfully set up and that time in the meeting itself is used for truly valuable conversations. Crazy? We think not.

Though they might be a bit cheesy, these rules really will help you set up effective meetings. Here’s to never wasting time again!

Why are meetings unproductive in the first place?

Multitasking: Hate trying to make a point while your coworker is typing away on their laptop? Us too. Here are a few tips for avoiding the “multitasking” trap.

  1. Be on time. Give yourself a few minutes to make it to your room, grab a drink, and be in your chair at 3PM sharp
  2. Put your phone and laptop down (unless you absolutely need them for the meeting.) Even if you’re doing work, it’s hard for your coworkers to feel respected when you check your phone every few minutes.
  3. Snooze Slack. Super easy, and easy to forget, until your electronics start lighting up with messages and disrupting everyone’s train of thought.

Poor engagement (virtual or in person): Of course, not multitasking is only the first part of actually engaging. Instead, try these fixes.

  1. Active listening. Rather than formulating a response in your head, try engaging with what your coworkers are saying. Show you’re listening with your body language.
  2. Take turns in conversation. Don’t interrupt others, and invite people to share who haven’t had a chance yet.

Lack of planning/structure: Lack of forethought on the part of the meeting planner means wasting multiple people’s time during the meeting itself. To avoid that, consider these aspects.

  1. Necessity: Do we really need this meeting? Or is it just a recurring or routine meeting we’re doing out of habit?
  2. Stakeholders: Does everyone have a reason for being there? Is there an agenda item for everyone?
  3. Outcome: What’s the goal? Why are we gathering?
  4. Agenda: Does the agenda have clear deliverables? Are the agenda items assigned to attendees? A good agenda is half the battle in running a good meeting.

We created some easy-to-remember rules for combatting these issues and setting up better meetings than ever.

For meeting facilitators

A meeting’s facilitator will generally be the person most involved in the issue at hand and while they don’t necessarily need to do all the talking, they are responsible for making sure the meeting runs smoothly. Each meeting will usually have a clear facilitator (maybe they’re designing a marketing campaign or presenting new research,) but if it doesn’t, someone from the broader group can step up to the plate. Here are x.ai’s best meeting practices for facilitators.

A.M.Y.’s meeting rules for facilitators

  1. [A]genda:
    1. Send an agenda for the meeting. Make sure it’s embedded in the invite or emailed to attendees ahead of time.
    2. A goal for the meeting should be clear and communicated.
    3. There should be at least one item to be addressed during the meeting.
    4. There should be at least one item directly related to each attendee (or multiple attendees to an item).
  2. [M]inimal attendees:
    1. Each attendee has at least one agenda item.
    2. That agenda item  provides or gains value to/from the meeting.
    3. If not, they should be marked as optional or removed completely.
  3. [Y]ields action:
    1. There’s at least one agenda item that will yield an action to be taken or achieve a goal by being discussed in the meeting.

But those are just a starting point for running a good meeting. There’s a few other key logistics to consider as well.

Book a conference room: The world’s most obvious advice, but still not always followed. It happens to the best of us, especially if the meeting gets moved but you don’t rebook a place to have it. X.ai had a particularly memorable board meeting once in the WeWork kitchen with music at full blast due to just that mistake.

Good news though—Amy + Andrew will be able to book you a conference room in just a few days. Stay tuned for instructions on how to get started. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting again!

Test A/V ahead of time: Again, simple, but how many of us actually follow through? Getting into the habit of showing up a few minutes early when you’re facilitating can save the group a LOT of time. One of x.ai’s Time Lords Erica shares a horror story of setting up a meeting in a different conference room than usual, then wasting half the meeting trying to get video conferencing set up, only to give up and run the whole thing off her laptop. And that was in a room full of PhDs!

For meeting attendees

If you’re a meeting attendee, you get to just kick back, relax, and do nothing. Just kidding! Your job is to keep the meeting facilitator honest, and you have permission (from x.ai, at least) to decline any meetings that break the A.M.Y. rules.

A.M.Y.’s meeting rules for attendees

  1. [A]genda:
    1. There’s an agenda in the invite OR in my inbox ahead of the meeting.
    2. There’s a clear and communicated goal/objective for the meeting.
    3. There’s at least one item with my name attached.
  2. [M]inimal attendees:
    1. I’ll meaningfully contribute to/gain value from this meeting.
    2. Important: you should not be attending a meeting “just to get the update”—updates to non-decision makers can be communicated via a quick message after the meeting.
  3. [Y]ields action:
    1. You will have at least one action to take or goal to achieve during or after the meeting.

Of course, these rules are just a jumping off point for running productive meetings—if you’re conscientious of your coworkers’ time, you’re already doing great. Got more suggestions for meeting rules of engagement? Let us know on Twitter!

Next blog post: how to get your coworkers to agree with you. (You’ll have to figure out how to do that on your own for now.)