8 Alternatives To (Long) Meetings

One of the most frequent questions we receive in our productivity training is how teams can improve their meetings. Meetings have increasingly become a source of frustration and annoyance to many knowledge workers across all industries. Luckily, our team of Productivity Ninjas are on a mission to overall reduce the meetings we attend and make the ones we have to go to super productive. Our Facilitation Training will teach you lots of useful tools and techniques on how to make your meetings more productive, but to start you off straight away, we’ve put together some alternatives to free up some space in your calendar.

Making Meetings Fun Again

The Why!

Before we discuss the various alternatives to all those hour-long meetings in your calendar, let’s have a look at WHY it even matters. Why should we cut down the meetings we host and attend?

First off, we see more and more people’s calendars being filled with one meeting after the other which just begs the question: when are we getting actual work done? Furthermore, have you ever pondered about the cost of your meetings?

We don’t mean the room hire and biscuits, or the hour of your life and the cost of that time to your boss. We’re talking about the cost of getting all of those people in a room for an hour – some of you are very highly paid, even when stuck in a meaningless meeting.

On average, 10 hours of meetings per week with just 4 employees can cost up to £25.9k a year. It’s been reported that the average manager spends 18 to 26 hours per week in formal and informal meetings, and the average meeting comprises of eight people. It’s clear to see that spending our days in meetings isn’t the most valuable use of our time and not the most useful way employers spend their money either.

But what are the alternatives to meetings?

The How! 

1) Get It Done 

Don’t wait for an approval meeting, remember it’s usually better to apologize than to ask permission. And in the days of Slack, you don’t need a meeting for signing work off, simply ping it onto Slack or whichever tool your team is using and let your line manager do their magic.

2) Email 

Updating people on a project status? Wanting to hear some feedback on work you’ve recently done? Whilst our first instinct is to gather people in a room and talk it out, fight the instinct and plug it into a nicely structured email instead. Similarly, if you’re invited to a meeting but feel like you don’t really have much to add but still would like to hear what happened, simply ask to receive the meeting minutes after.

How to Tackle Your Inbox

3) Conference Calls

Rather than getting everyone in the same physical space, get everyone in the same virtual space. When well-structured, the call can be done in half the time of a well-run meeting. The topic can be more focused and fewer people will jump in with duplicate or valueless comments and ideas.

4) Collaborative Technologies 

We’re talking Slack, Google+, second brain tools etc. They all allow you to collaborate on documents or ideas from day one, with the people you’d normally invite to a meeting.

5) Checklists and Brisk Meetings 

For regular meetings, for example 121s, prepare a checklist for the meeting, which attendees fill out beforehand. Start every meeting with the same question: “What were the action points from our last meeting?” before running through a list of open questions and then finally a summary of actions for both to take away.

6) Daily Huddle

This takes no more than 15 minutes each day, deals with small issues and happens at the same time every day, asking the same set of questions every single time.

7) Corridor Consensus Building and Management by Walking About 

Set aside some time, either once a day or certainly two or three times a week, when you make yourself available to your team, and to those outside of your direct line management but with whom you may need to collaborate. It’s a time when people know they can come talk to you. Done well, this can cover off half a dozen or more issues in no more than half an hour, versus running ten or more meetings a week.

8) Round Up Emails 

It’s important for good communication and morale that teams are up to speed with what everyone else is working on. Having an internal communications person collate the best of the week’s news and then ensuring everyone reads it is much quicker than asking everyone to sit in a room hearing it for an hour or more.

By Hannah Urbanek
You can connect with Hannah on LinkedIn.

Excellent points. I am also interested in experimenting with Stand-up meetings. Evidence is showing they are roughly half the length and equally as impactful. Also, “walking” meetings if there are only 2-3 people involved. Pick a destination and get some exercise as you discuss something. Use a voice recorder to capture notes.

We run a daily stand-up but the nature of much of our work is that it is long tailed and runs over multiple days – do you have any advice on chunking work up in a way that would support a more action / delivery based daily huddle rather than a generic update?


Hi John! Thanks for the great question.
Here are the questions we ask during our Daily Huddle at Think Productive: https://thinkproductive.co.uk/the-daily-huddle/
Focusing more on delivery and actions, we’d also suggest including/exchanging some for the following questions:
What 3 things do you need to update people on/share?
What 3 things are you prioritizing?
What do you need help with?

Let us know if you have any other questions and keep us posted on how you’re getting on with your daily huddles!

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