Meetings: 15 Minute Magic

June 25, 2012

Thanks to Flickr user jurvetson for the photo!

Bob shakily raises his hand. Sheila glares at him, sweat glistening on her brow. Her hand pauses, pen in hand above a self-crafted drawing depicting the death of every member currently in the room. George’s eyes flash first with fear, desperation and finally resignation, he sighs and nods towards Bob’s shaky hand, “Yes, Bob?”

Bob scootches up in his seat, takes a deep breath and begins, “Well, I know we weren’t really discussing this, this meeting, but-”

That was the two hour marathon meeting, that was only supposed to last 45 minutes. You know Bob, don’t you? You have stared that meeting demon right in the eyes, huh? Well, meeting demons no more.

Today, I take a page from the book of Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Location and Local Services, as well as their go to public figure, of late. She’s also the youngest woman to ever make Fortune’s list of 50 most powerful women. Go XX Chromisomes!

At one point in her Google career she was holding about 70 meetings per week, as a last stop to engineers pitch their ideas before they got to talk to the co-founders.

On the wall during meetings are three large projections. One is a 4 foot tall clock, ticking away the seconds assigned to that particular meeting. Another is the presentation, a traditional meeting feature. The last are the meeting notes. These elements keep her on track, as well as these techniques, which are all fabulous additions to the 15 minute meeting:

  1. Assign someone to take notes: This keeps everyone honest, keeps that individual paying particular interest and adds to the sense that every minute counts.
  2. Schedule like you mean it: Mayer requests an agenda from whoever is leading the meeting, before it takes place. Within larger meetings, such as her weekly 2 hour meetings, she creates “micro-meetings”. A one hour meeting for Mayer may be composed of 6 ten minute meetings of varying topics, aiding in her efforts of “reducing latency in the pipeline.”
  3. Go to office hours: She also holds office hours 90 minutes everyday. On a white board outside of her office, employees sign up to meet with her and personally discuss their issues or ideas.
  4. Tick Tock: The clock is not God, it is just helpful. Mayer gives friendly reminders when time is running low in order to keep her schedule straight, rather than abruptly kicking people out of her office.

For some more information on Mayer and her techniques, check out my source: How to Run a Meeting Like Google. And it is with this post, that I conclude my series on meetings. It is my only hope, that with the information above in this passage, that you might be able to keep the 15 minute meeting rolling and the meeting demons at bay.

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