Sometimes we get so used to how things are done at work that we never take a step back and see any opportunities for improvement.

It’s easy to fall into a rhythm and say things like “well, this is how we’ve always done it” or “it’s been like this from the start.” And while you may also think, “if it isn’t broken — don’t fix it,” sometimes you don’t know something is broken until you take the time to really look.

For instance, how does your organization run meetings? From performance reviews to one-on-ones and company-wide all hands, maybe there’s a way to make them more productive. You’ll never find out unless you conduct a meeting audit.

What is a meeting audit?  

Think of a meeting audit as doing some spring cleaning – but for your meetings. A meeting audit is the pulse check you do on all meetings within your calendar that you take part in on a consistent basis. When you do the audit, you’ll establish if the meeting is being held at the right cadence and that the time spent within the meeting feels productive and effective.

We all have meetings where we leave and think “what’s the point” – and a meeting audit can ensure you ask yourself that question less often. As you go about the audit, you’ll find answers to questions like:

  • How much time am I spending in meetings?
  • What takes a meeting from ineffective to productive?
  • Which meeting is run with the best techniques and processes?

How often should you run a meeting audit? 

How often you decide to carry out a meeting audit will likely depend on the size of your organization and how many meetings executives are attending on a regular basis. A good place to start is taking a deep dive into your company’s meetings at the start of each fiscal year and then again at the half. 

That way, if something is amiss or can be improved, you don’t spend too much time holding unproductive meetings where nothing gets accomplished and conversation is always scattered and unorganized. 

Pro tip

Use Fellow to hold productive and collaborative meetings by having a shared agenda, organized talking points, and a place to document feedback.

How to audit your meetings in 7 steps 

No matter the size of your business or the industry it’s within, conducting a meeting audit is simple and it can be done in these seven steps.

1 Create a list of recurring meetings your team attends

The first step in conducting a meeting audit is to gather all the pertinent information that you believe you’ll need in order for it to be a success.  This includes making a list of every meeting you, fellow managers and team members, or the leadership as a whole attends on a regular basis.

The span of time you’ll want to check is at least two weeks, but we recommend looking at a complete month’s worth of meetings. Check to see who is invited to each meeting, who accepts the invite versus RSVPs no, if there’s an agenda attached, whether or not the meeting notes got sent out after, and how often the meeting takes place. 

For instance, are one-on-one meetings happening weekly or biweekly? Do company-wide all hands occur every month or every quarter? 

Having this information is crucial to carrying out a comprehensive audit. 

2 Assess how long is each meeting

The next step within the audit process is to determine the length of each meeting. While one-on-ones with a direct report can be short and sweet, roughly 30 minutes, company all-hands should be at least one full hour. But then there’s the team huddles and sprints. You may find that some are too long and run the risk of being redundant, whereas some feel rushed or hurried because there isn’t enough time to get through the full agenda. 

When you have a complete breakdown of the length of each meeting, you’ll also be able to see how much time everyone is spending sitting in meetings versus taking care of their day-to-day tasks and responsibilities. Having this information can be eye-opening, especially when the meetings aren’t as productive as they should be. 

3 Understand the purpose

At the end of each meeting you attend, it should be easy to explain the purpose of coming together to hold the meeting in the first place and the outcome that was reached during the discussion. 

If not, it may be time to consider why it’s taking place at all. Could it have been an email? Or maybe even a direct message to the attendees? 

If you can’t explain to someone who wasn’t in attendance the purpose, it either shouldn’t happen at all, or it needs a complete overhaul. Once you have a list of the meetings that fall into this criterion that you won’t be reworking, it’s time to remove them from your calendar. 

4 Analyze the agenda

Meetings with a purpose and an outcome usually come with a fully built-out and robust meeting agenda. As you go about the meeting audit, these agendas should be looked at and even compared to each other. 

Find out which agendas come with the slide deck attached, meeting roles specified, and the most important questions to consider ahead of time, and which feel like they’re missing some need-to-know information. At the end of the day, a meeting will always be unproductive and ineffective without an agenda, so the ones without one need to go!

5 Find potential changes and improvements

Once you have all the data you need, it’s time to pinpoint where changes and improvements can be made.

Meetings without an agenda or a purpose? Probably can be eliminated.

Meetings with an agenda that feel a little lackluster? Consider utilizing an agenda template to take this meeting from so-so to spectacular. Doing so also takes the hassle out of creating a new agenda from the ground up every time certain types of meetings occur. 

Meetings that always seem to run over time? These either need to be extended, time-wise, or happen more often. 

Whatever the case may be, the meeting audit will help bring these findings to light.

6 Go over results with your team

Once you have a final report from your audit, share the results with your team. In addition to what the audit uncovered,  the team may have additional feedback, comments, concerns, or questions to bring up regarding the details of each meeting. 

Ask your team members if they have any other suggestions for improving meetings in the future, as there could be something they have noticed that they would like to bring forward. Whether they believe a meeting has gotten lackluster or unproductive over the last few months, or if they think a meeting should be extended in time to cover all of the critical topics of conversation, it’s always a good idea to open the floor to this feedback.

7 Implement changes found in the audit

Conducting a meeting audit is useless unless you make an effort to implement the changes you uncovered.

This may look like deleting meetings off your calendar altogether, making adjustments to the agenda or cadence, or making them longer or shorter. Whatever the case may be, if you put changes to action and still don’t see the results you were hoping for, consider taking another look at elements like meeting roles, attendees, or even how the agenda is constructed.

What will your audit uncover?

Sometimes the change you need to make is staring you right in the face — you just need to know where to look. A meeting audit can bring to light the adjustments your team needs to make to take an ineffective or lackluster meeting and turn it into a place where productive conversations happen. 

And while you may be hesitant to make a change at first, give these adjustments a chance to make a difference for, hopefully, the better.