How to Run a Meeting Like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook

What if your team could use some of the same techniques that companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook use to streamline the way they work?

After all, these companies are some of the biggest and most innovative businesses in the world.

Want to learn how to do meetings right? There’s no better way to learn than by observing what these companies are doing.

Read on to learn how to run a meeting like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook and use the same core principles to make your meetings as effective as possible.

 

Google – Hold consistently good meetings

Despite being one of the biggest companies in the world, Google manages to keep things innovative and effective.

How? One reason is that Google knows how to hold meetings.

Use data in meetings

Office politics often dictate meeting decisions. An idea is adopted because it sounds good. Not that much thought is put into figuring out how well it holds up to scrutiny.

At Google, every decision is backed up by data. The reasoning behind a particular decision can’t be “I like this better.” Instead, decisions must be tied together with hard numbers. For example, an idea is adopted because it performed 20% better than another idea.

Keep meetings small and use agendas

We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating:

Keep your meetings small and use agendas to keep meetings focused and effective. These two things are some of the main meeting principles at Google, so you know they’ll work wonders.

Make decisions without meetings

Too many organizations misuse meetings. Meetings are held for the sake of holding a meeting, not making decisions.

Subsequently, a lot of decisions are stalled because meetings can’t be scheduled fast enough. And a delayed meeting can make or break a project.

So, why wait to make a decision during a meeting?

Instead, do what Google does; don’t hold meetings just for the sake of making decisions.

Assign note-takers and decision-makers

A big reason why Google is able to keep its meetings so focused is that meetings always have a note-keeper and decision-maker. They keep the meeting focused and meeting participants and other team members updated on what was discussed during the meeting.

Hold micro-meetings

Marissa Mayer, Google’s former vice-president of search products, had an easy way to prevent her meeting schedule from becoming a bottleneck in the decision-making pipeline.

Mayer simply allowed five and ten-minute meetings to be scheduled, instead of 30-minute chunks of time. This offered a lot of flexibility, and team members didn’t have to wait for weeks for an opening in her calendar.

This approach to meetings doesn’t have to be hard to implement. Make it easy for team members to schedule shorter chunks of each other’s time.

Use a physical clock to keep time

A peculiarity of many Google meetings (as reported here and here) is that a visible clock counts down the time.

Why? It’s pretty simple; to remind meeting participants that the meeting is time-limited. That way, everyone keeps focused on the meeting agenda and goals.

Try this approach at your next meeting. Use a Time Timer or a timer on your phone or computer to keep your meeting on track.

 

Apple – Focus on the essentials

Apple is known for being extremely minimalistic and focused. It doesn’t come as a surprise that its meetings meet those same standards. Here’s how you can use Apple’s meeting methods for your own meeting:

Assign responsibility

How does Apple ensure that every decision that is made during a meeting will actually get implemented?

Simple: At the end of a meeting, every meeting decision is assigned to a meeting participant, who is then responsible for that decision. That person keeps track of the decision and reports back at subsequent meetings. This way, no meeting decision gets overlooked.

You can use this method by starting to assign decisions to meeting participants at an upcoming meeting. Just remember to define what is expected of the responsible person; does he or she overlook team members who implement the decision or is that person alone responsible for taking action on the decision?

Meeting participants need a reason to attend

Steve Jobs was known for throwing out any meeting participant who didn’t have a reason to be in the room. While Jobs sometimes gave employees a particularly hard time, this is a principle you can use in your meetings.

After all, meetings are too often seen as team events that every team member has to attend for the sake of attending. Instead, clearly define who should attend meetings by creating guidelines that all team members can use.

Need to communicate meeting decisions to team members who don’t need to participate in a meeting? There are plenty of communication channels you can use, such as Slack, email, and Minute.

Make meetings innovative

You probably know Apple as an innovation powerhouse. So, it makes sense that meetings at Apple are used to achieve breakthroughs as a team. Steve Jobs used to challenge meeting participants to defend their ideas. Why? Getting your ideas challenged and questioned ensures that you think them through and that they have a solid foundation.

Make a habit of challenging your team members’ ideas during your meetings. Not only does this help people to do their best work, but it also keeps meeting participants engaged throughout the meeting.

 

Amazon – Think outside the box

Amazon, the retail giant, has to keep productive and innovative. It’s not easy for a smaller company and it certainly is a challenge for one of the world’s biggest companies. So, how does Amazon manage to keep meetings focused and effective?

Help everyone get on the same page

Before executives at Amazon start a meeting, they sit down for 30 minutes of silence. During this time, they read the meeting memo, which is called the ‘meeting narrative’. The narrative consists of:

  • Context of meeting or questions
  • Possible approaches to the questions
  • The meeting participant’s approach
  • What’s the next step?

This helps ensure that meeting participants are focused. Because there’s a memo, the meeting has a clear purpose.

A rule of thumb for holding small meetings

Amazon, Google, and Apple have one thing in common – they all keep meetings small. Amazon has a good rule of thumb for figuring out how many participants you should invite to a meeting. Namely, only hold meetings where two pizzas are enough to feed everyone in the meeting room.

Find ways to inspire meeting participants

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has an interesting way to remind employees of what matters most:

He keeps an empty chair in the meeting room to remind meeting participants of the customer. After all, the customer is the person Amazon aims to serve. It’s the customer’s interest that should be the main focus in every decision that is made.

Your organization doesn’t necessarily serve a customer, nor do you need to follow Bezos’ approach to a T. Find your own focus (who is it you serve as an organization?) and get creative in how you can remind meeting participants of that focus.

 

Facebook – Streamline your meetings

Facebook went from start-up to a multi-billion company in under 10 years. That’s pretty impressive – and a good reason to observe what Facebook is doing to optimize its meetings.

Set goals and prep meeting participants

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg streamlined the company’s meetings by getting managers to ask themselves if the meeting is held to “make a decision or to have a discussion.” This helps them define an intention for the meeting, which means no time is wasted on meetings without a purpose. Meeting participants get meeting material ahead of the meeting so that they can prep at their own pace.

Use these tips in your meetings:

Drill down why a meeting is held and ensure all meeting participants get a memo before the meeting. You might be surprised how much this does for your meetings!

Use a list

Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, crosses off meeting items as the meeting progresses. When all items are crossed off, she ends the meeting even if there’s still meeting time left.

What can we learn from this?

Don’t get too caught up in trying to use a standard time for every meeting. You might end up using up all the scheduled time, even if it’s not necessary for the meeting tasks at hand. Instead, focus on the list in front of you.

 

Conclusion: The easy way – How to run a meeting like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook

Now you have a pretty good picture of what it takes to hold meetings like the world’s biggest tech companies.

The next step is to implement what you’ve learned.

It doesn’t have to be hard:

Sit down with your team and define what you want to achieve with your meetings. Write down your goals and the methods you use to achieve them.

Then, consistently hold meetings that move your organization forward.

Have you already tried one or several of these meeting methods? Or do you have something you want to add? Let me know in the comments below!

By |February 28th, 2017|Meetings|3 Comments