A group of young business people having a casual meeting while eating pizza

As corporate time-wasters go, meetings are often placed close to the top of the list—that’s why it’s important for CPAs to find a way to make the most of their gatherings, whether they be once-a-year tax discussions with clients or strategy sessions with the upper management team. (Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

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If you want to stop wasting time in meetings, try these techniques from 5 top CEOs 

With these tips, you can turn your next corporate get-together into a positive experience for all involved.

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As corporate time-wasters go, meetings are often placed close to the top of the list—and with good reason. According to software company Atlassian, the average executive spends 18 hours a week at meetings. In one study, senior executives rated more than half the meetings they attended as “ineffective” or “very ineffective.”

Still, for some discussions, there is nothing like meeting face to face (or at least onscreen). That’s why it’s important for CPAs to find a way to make the most of their gatherings, whether they be once-a-year tax discussions with clients or strategy sessions with the upper management team. Here are some ideas from top CEOs that should help set you on the right track for your next get-together.  

1. Jeff Bezos: Limit the number of attendees 

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos steers clear of meetings whenever possible. But when he does attend a meeting, Bezos makes sure it’s worth his time. Not only does he ask his senior executives to write an extensive memo outlining their thoughts beforehand, but he never convenes early-morning gatherings. Above all, he has a “two pizza rule”: no meeting should include more people than can be fed with two large pizzas—that’s about five to seven attendees. 

2. Mark Zuckerberg: Clarify your goals

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has found at least a couple of ways to streamline meetings. First, as Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.org, says on Quora, “…he asks people to send materials in advance so we can use the time for discussion.” Second, “we try to be clear about our goal when we sit down for a meeting—are we in the room to make a decision or to have a discussion?" 

3. Alan Mulally: Count your meetings

After Alan Mulally became president and CEO of Ford in 2006, the company eliminated all meetings that were considered unnecessary and shortened those that were unduly long. It also instituted a weekly session called the Business Plan Review (BPR), a focused four- to five-hour meeting for senior executives to set strategy and review performance. This initiative improved the quality and pace of decision making at Ford and helped accelerate its turnaround.

4. Jeff Weiner: Give 24-hour notice

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner thinks meetings should last only as long as it takes to get business done. The company has virtually eliminated presentations, requiring instead that any materials in need of consideration be sent to all meeting participants 24 hours ahead of time. 

5. Steve Jobs: Stay focused

Every year, the late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, would take the company’s top 100 executives on a planning retreat and ask them to identify 10 priorities for the year to come. This caused lively competition in the group, with everyone trying to get their ideas on the short list. But then Jobs would take a marker and cross out the bottom seven ideas, saying “We can only do three.” In so doing, he made the company’s direction clear.

For more

To inject some energy into your corporate get-togethers, see Why you should make your next meeting a stand-up one