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The Rule of 7: How to Improve Your Meeting Productivity

If you’re looking to improve meeting productivity across your team, consider implementing the rule of 7! Learn how here.

By Mara Calvello  •   September 11, 2023  •   5 min read

Running a productive meeting is easier said than done.

Sometimes the conversation goes off the rails, new challenges arise that you weren’t prepared for, or attendees fail to add anything to their sections of the agenda.

Whatever the case may be, if you’re looking for a new tactic to put in place for your team meetings, consider implementing the rule of 7.

What is the rule of 7?

When it comes to holding meetings, the rule of 7 boils down to the notion that unnecessary attendees simply get in the way. The rule states that every attendee over seven reduces the likelihood of making a good, quick, executable decision by 10%.

The rule of 7 is especially important when managing a remote or distributed team and when you’re coming together to make decisions. Understanding the rule of 7 and its benefits is often one of the best productivity-planning tools a manager can have.

And why the number 7?

Having only seven participants will limit any conversation where a decision point needs to be reached. It serves as a middle ground of social, organizational, and psychological research. There are just enough voices and opinions to consider without the meeting host becoming overwhelmed.

Run efficient meetings, come to a decision, and get back to work

Level up your meeting habits to boost engagement and productivity with a collaborative meeting agenda. Try a tool like Fellow!

The benefits of following the rule of 7 

Why follow the rule of 7 for your next meeting? Doing so can lead to several benefits. Let’s break some down.

1Allows attendees to process the information

One of the benefits of only having seven meeting attendees is that it gives everyone a chance to process the conversation and the information being shared. Because the conversation is more likely to stay on track with critical deliverables on the table for discussion, when information is decided upon, everyone has the time, space, and energy to process it.

This also means that the right questions are asked (before it’s too late), and teams can brainstorm what to do if a challenge arises.

2Reduces costs 

What team doesn’t like to cut costs? A great place to start is following the rule of 7.

Thanks to our research, Fellow has found that the average cost of a meeting is $156. When your team makes smarter decisions about the meetings team members are having, and when these meetings are as succinct and efficient as possible, these unnecessary expenses are reduced and your business’s bottom line and profit margin increase.

Unsure how much your team is spending on meetings? Fellow has built a tool to help you calculate meeting costs. And if you’re stunned by how costly the meetings are, start by reducing the number of attendees. Then, consider using a tool like Fellow, as users who do end up spending 16% less time in meetings—a win-win all around!

3Improves productivity

Another great reason to consider the rule of 7 is that doing so improves productivity. When your meetings are limited to seven attendees, the conversations have a purpose and it’s easier to organize discussion points. When this occurs, teams can take advantage of using a collaborative meeting agenda, work to solve key problems, and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

The rule of 7 ensures that the meeting host only invites necessary participants so you don’t have too many conversations going on at one time. Instead of getting trigger-happy with the meeting invite, offer a post-call recording to anyone who can’t make it or share the meeting notes in a place stakeholders can access.

 “Adding more folks to the mix cuts down on the valuable contributions of your genius introverts, and the time for your brightest minds to meld.”

Victoria Fine

4Improves decision making 

Finally, the rule of 7 improves decision-making. As we stated earlier, research has concluded that for every attendee over seven participants in a meeting, the ability to make essential decisions goes down by 10%. 

When attendees can collaborate and make decisions together, there’s a better chance of improving transparency, communication, and trust, as everyone can share a range of ideas that will broaden perspectives, leading to well-thought-out solutions.

Tips for implementing the rule of 7

Interested in implementing the rule of 7 but are unsure where to start? Consider these best practices when rolling it out to the team.

1Only invite people who provide value

If an attendee doesn’t provide talking points, comments, ideas, or insights, they should not attend the meeting synchronously. Instead, they can read the notes or watch the recording asynchronously. Establishing this as a meeting guideline can help narrow down who should be in attendance for each meeting you host.

To get started with this tip, use Fellow to send a meeting agenda at least 24 hours in advance of each meeting so everyone can contribute to it. If an invited attendee doesn’t contribute anything to the agenda, this may be a sign that they don’t have to attend the meeting. You could then remove them from the invitation list, explain why, and have an opening to invite another member.

Fellow’s Meeting Guidelines feature set helps you ensure only the most essential attendees are in your meetings. If a meeting has more than 7 attendees, Fellow will send the meeting organizer a prompt to remove additional attendees, or mark them as optional.

2Make attendance optional 

Your team members have a lot on their plates, and you want to avoid meeting overload and burnout as much as possible. When sending out meeting invites to the seven attendees you believe will have the most to gain from and contribute to the conversation, make joining optional.

It may be the case that one of the seven you’ve chosen would prefer to catch up on the conversation through meeting notes. Or, perhaps one of the other attendees could be informed of the details that individual wanted to share ahead of the meeting, so the attendee can share two updates for the price of one of the seven slots.

3Record the meeting 

Smile for the camera!

When it comes to only having seven attendees on the invite list but still having all keep stakeholders up to speed on decisions and upcoming strategy, it’s in your best interest to record the meeting.

This means when using video conferencing software, be sure to hit Record Meeting before the conversation is entirely underway. Then, save this recording in a place other team members and employees can watch it to be informed on various discussion points. 

Then, take the meeting one step further by noting questions, solutions, action items, and anything else that was pertinent to the conversation in the meeting agenda. Having both a video and written recording of the meeting ensures that everyone has access to all of the same information, so there are no discrepancies. 

4Share the meeting notes 

In addition to the recording, be sure to share the meeting notes with those who didn’t make the meeting list once the meeting has wrapped up. Teams that use Fellow for their meeting notes should take advantage of the fact that with a single click of a button, you can send meeting notes through email or Slack so that everyone feels like they were a part of the discussion—even if they didn’t make the final seven.

Who will you add to your top seven?

Who will be on your list of seven attendees will vary from meeting to meeting. Outside of all hands and one-on-ones, it’s crucial to stick to the rule of 7 for the best chance of coming to a crucial decision and remaining productive.

Choose wisely!

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