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Meetings Best Practices

Michel Galibert2019-04-052 min read

We decided to publish part of our internal documentation as a series of blog posts. This article is part of this series. It provides some good practices about the way we organize meetings.

🤔 What’s the matter with meetings?

We are talking about large meetings, three people or more. We are not talking about one-to-one conversations, which is another debate.

The problem with meetings is that:

  • They are often unprepared and tend to get out of control;
  • Attendees haven’t thought about the subject beforehand;
  • There is no agenda or a precise objective;
  • There is no respect for time, starting and ending;
  • There is no written decision.

Preparation takes time. But if you think about it, this time is a worthwhile investment. If you take three hours preparing and it saves thirty minutes in a six-person meeting, it’s worth it.

⚠️ Meetings should be your last option

Let’s say you have a decision to make. You can’t make this decision alone, and you’re about to schedule a meeting/brainstorming to find a consensus.

Stop there. Meetings should be your last option, not the first one. There are things we can do to prevent meetings.

Set up an asynchronous public written discussion. The point is to help us get some advice without wasting the time of others. For example:

  • Open a conversation on Confluence for tech subjects;
  • Start a conversation on Slack.

Ideally, this should solve 99% of the cases.

If it doesn’t, prepare a meeting with those concerned.

😞 OK, you really need a meeting…

✍🏻 Before the meeting

  • Write and share a memo to explain the problem, the solutions that have already been considered and the expected result of the meeting (avoid slides at all cost);
  • Choose the appropriate participants for the meeting: ask yourself "If that person were sick, would I postpone the meeting?";
  • Send a calendar invitation: default is 30 minutes, not 1 hour;
  • Opt for the beginning of work periods (10am and 2pm) or just before noon.

⏲ During the meeting

  • Start on time;
  • Set out the agenda and clearly express the goal of the meeting;
  • Only one computer should be opened, and no phones;
  • Take visible notes during the meeting;
    • Do not hesitate to write who said what; it’ll help ensure people’s thoughts are properly understood;
    • It prevents repetition;
    • It limits ambiguity;
  • Stop on time. Don’t just say "Oh, well?" at the end. Plan accordingly and redirect the discussion as necessary.

🗳 After the meeting

  • Make a Return on Time Invested (ROTI). ROTI is a quick and easy method to gauge the time spent during a meeting. People can rate the meeting using the Fist of Five technique and this 1-5 scale:
    • ☝️ 1/5 Useless. I gained nothing. It was a total waste of time. No value at all.
    • ✌️ 2/5 Useful. But it wasn’t worth 100% of the time spent on it. So, it wasted a bit of my time. Subpar value.
    • 👌 3/5 Average. I got enough out of the meeting to justify the time spent on it. It did not waste my time. Standard value.
    • 🖖 4/5 Above average. I got more out of the meeting than I put into it. Good value.
    • 🖐 5/5 Excellent. A really useful meeting that was worth far more than the time I spent on it. High Value.
  • Write and share the decisions and action points that were agreed upon.

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