When it comes to meetings, many of us default to including everyone in an attempt to protect feelings. In doing so, we unintentionally decrease the quality of our time together.

Research shows that the most productive meetings contain between five and eight people. Any more, and the quality of conversation begins to erode.

Are your meetings too big?

Do an audit of your office meetings. If they’re too big, you’ll likely notice one (or more) of the following warning signs:

  • Not everyone participates in the conversation
  • There are more shallow comments than rich, back-and-forth debates
  • The majority of the meeting time is filled with information sharing and catch-ups
  • Tough topics and decisions are handled outside of meetings

How to make the shift to smaller meetings

Try these simple steps to establish new norms in your office:

  1. Tell your team about the change: Let your team know that moving forward, meetings will be smaller with the intention of making them more effective. Tell them you’re aware of how much time is spent in meetings, and you want to implement a strategy that will help time management.
  2. Think about your invite list: First define an agenda for your meeting. From there, ask yourself: “Who must be present for the discussion to yield results? For whom would I cancel if they couldn’t attend?” Start with this small group. Add people only if you think they’ll add value to the conversation.
  3. Give them an out: Tell your team that they are encouraged to ask to be included when they feel they can offer value. Also tell them they have permission to bow out if they think their time could be better spent elsewhere. Encourage one attendee in each meeting to take minutes so that others feel included.

Still not sure about who to include?

Use this list – derived from meeting expert, Paul Axtell – as a reference when considering who to include in your next meeting:

  • Who has the most knowledge about the topic of discussion?
  • Who will handle implementation?
  • Whose position will be directly impacted?
  • Who might learn from participating?