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How to Run Your Meetings Like Google


Meetings are the last thing anyone wants to see on their calendar. They slow down productivity and can interfere with trying to tie up loose ends on projects. Some days, it seems like meetings will never end, and for some people, they don’t. In fact, it’s not uncommon for professionals to be forced to set aside actual work until they get home in the evenings because their days are clogged with meetings. So what’s the solution?

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(Photo Credit: Affiliate/Flickr)

If you’re looking to end days like this, consider having more meetings like the way Google does. The tech giant has been known for several years to have some of the most efficient processes for holding meetings and ensuring employees can actually get things done — and while still in the office, for that matter.

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For example, take how Google revamped meetings back in 2011, when the company was trying to get back to its original values as a startup. According to 99u, Google VP of Business Operations Kristen Gil described some of the new rules Google implemented, including;

  • All meetings should have a clear decision maker. This is critical to ensure the meeting stays on track. 
  • No more than 10 people at a meeting. As Gil writes, “Attending meetings isn’t a badge of honor.”
  • Decisions should never wait for a meeting. Meetings are not the time to make decisions. If a meeting needs to happen to get something done, the meeting should happen as soon as possible. 

Another way of approaching meetings the way Google has in the past can be done by implanting strategies utilized by Marissa Mayer, who held several leadership positions at the company before leaving for Yahoo!. According to Bloomberg, Mayer held an average of 70 meetings a week — but didn’t waste anyone’s time. She made sure her meetings were effective and ensured everyone stayed productive. Here are a few lessons to be learned from the way Google ran meetings during Mayer’s tenure:

  • Set a firm agenda. Mayer requested a meeting agenda before each meeting to ensure meetings stayed short and to the point.
  • Stick to the clock. To add pressure to keep meetings focused, meetings at Google often feature a giant (projected) timer on the wall, counting down the minutes left for a particular meeting or topic. 
  • Assign a note-taker. Google believes it’s critical to capture an official set of notes — and yes, these too are projected in real-time on the wall during meetings, too. 

Finally, you may want to consider holding no meetings at all. Rumor has it that Google has “no-meeting weeks” where there are literally no meetings, company-wide. This freedom from meetings encourages employees to not only communicate more effectively, but also get things done — something that is hard to do when you spend your days holed up in conference rooms.

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How do you run your meetings more effectively? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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Taza Mohammedbhai Recent comment authors
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Taza Mohammedbhai
Taza Mohammedbhai

Great article and reflects – as you’d expect – huge amounts of common sense. My view is that for meetings to be effective, it’s all about the preparation. For meetings to realize the full benefit, it’s then about follow-up and making sure actions and decisions are then pursued and circulated across all the relevant teams. One thing we’re really focused on is how virtual meetings are slightly different to face to face ones. We’ve added a blog here that highlights… Read more »

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