The 5W1H Approach For Better Meetings

Senior managers spend a significant proportion of their time at work in meetings. Yet ask them how productively this time is being used and most will answer “not very!” Poorly run meetings waste hours of valuable business time and are, not surprisingly, the number one time waster identified by delegates on our time management workshop. The 5W1H approach will help to ensure anyone responsible for holding meetings makes them a productive use of every ones time.

The first “W” stands for Why. It reminds us that before we schedule a face-to-face meeting we must clearly identify why it is necessary to get everyone in the same room. If you cannot clearly define why the meeting needs to be held, don’t hold it! Meetings are not always the most effective way to share information with others. Check you really do need to have people physically present before you schedule a meeting with them.

The second “W” stands for Who. Having identified the why you should then only invite those people who can actually help you achieve this why to your meeting. This can be hard, as some people see attending meetings as a sign of their own importance (we call them the meeting "junkies").

The third “W” stands for What. Draft out the agenda so the “whats” are clearly identified. A good agenda is key to effective time management in meetings as people come better prepared to discuss the relevant issues. It can also be used as a road map to steer the meeting process and ensure time is used effectively.

The fourth “W” stands for When. Does the meeting need to be in the morning or in the afternoon? How much time does it really need to take? It’s tempting to schedule meetings in half hour or hour slots… but if you only need 20 minutes, then just schedule 20 minutes. Short productive meetings are the name of the game.

The fifth “W” stands for Where. Does the meeting need to be on-site or off-site? Make the location work for the participants, particularly if some of them have to travel to attend.

Lastly there is the “H”. This stands for How. Does the meeting need to be formally chaired, with full minutes taken, or is it an informal discussion? Does special equipment need to be provided for presentations etc? What about refreshments? Considering how the meeting will run will help to ensure time is used well.

The 5W1H approach described above will help you improve your meetings. It is just one of many time management planning tools that can be used for planning other aspects of your work as well.