Better Meetings: 4 More Essential Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Meeting Invite

May 2, 2013

Mastering Meeting Management

My colleague Nick Petri did a great job on a recent blog post on ways to avoid having non productive and non necessary meetings. He focused on 4 questions you should consider before scheduling a meeting.
I’d like to add four additional questions to the list that participants should also always consider asking the scheduler/organizer before accepting a meeting invite:

1) Does the meeting have a reasonable agenda?

It sounds obvious, but a meeting needs to stick to an agenda in order to to be productive. The agenda helps set the tone and objective of the conversation, moves the discussion along a timeline, and allows participants to prepare for the meeting itself.

2) Is it a meeting or a working session?

A working session is a particular type of group interaction that is often confused with a meeting. A working session is really a brainstorming, hands-on problem-solving exercise that involves multiple parties. It is not a meeting because it does not need an agenda, it does not need to stick to a timeline, and there is no expectation in terms of output such as agreement, opportunities, etc (except for the output of “work”).

3) How soon does the meeting have to happen?

This is a hard question to ask. Everyone who is scheduling meetings wants to have their meeting as soon as possible to get the issue out of their way. However, there are meetings that really do not have that much importance, and do not need to happen on a specific time or date. If that is the case, then why accept the meeting?

4) Who owns the output/outcome of the meeting?

This is quite similar to Nick’s question, “Am I looking for a discussion, or just an update?” because it also tries to get to the heart of the issue:

  • Why is this meeting important enough?
  • To whom it is important?
  • What outcome should the meeting have?

If it is not clear who owns the output of the meeting, then it’s likely that the meeting is just another routine update that should be eliminated from your schedule.
We still have a long way to go to improve our meetings efficiency at OpenView Labs. We love to meet with people and interact, but as always, learning to be more efficient is one of our ongoing goals. That is the only way we can be more effective as consultants and advisers to our portfolio companies and contributors to the tech community.

Do you agree with these questions? What are other questions you can ask to cut down on unnecessary meetings?


Chief Business Officer at UserTesting

Tien Anh joined UserTesting in 2015 after extensive financial and strategic experiences at OpenView, where he was an investor and advisor to a global portfolio of fast-growing enterprise SaaS companies. Until 2021, he led the Finance, IT, and Business Intelligence team as CFO of UserTesting. He currently leads initiatives for long term growth investments as Chief Business Officer at UserTesting.