A coworker with some seniority and experience once told me that they don’t bother to attend any meeting that is missing an agenda. Their reasoning was that if the organizer can’t be bothered to tell attendees why they need to be there, then the meeting is almost certainly unnecessary. I’ve thought about this a fair amount as a frequent meeting attendee and organizer, and it’s really helped to shape what I view as an acceptable use of other people’s time.
Including an agenda in meeting invitation forces the organizer to make a brief outline of the meeting and can help guide the meeting. It also allows attendees to be prepared for the event so that they can contribute or, optionally, decline it if it is not relevent to them.
As an organizer, if you cannot come up with a succinct list for the event then consider if the meeting is worth having or if you are the appropriate organizer for it. When the agenda is made use it to guide who should be invited and how long the meeting should be. If it’s a short agenda or the invite list is sufficiently small ask yourself the classic question “can this be an email?” Meetings really should only be utilized for situations that require close collaboration and synchronous, instant discussion. If the collaboration can be handled well through email or chat messages try that first. Plus, you have the added benefit of free meeting minutes this way.
As an attendee, consider rejecting any meeting that is missing an agenda, and refer to a provided agenda to determine if you need to attend. If able, offer the organizer feedback when declining the event so they can better organize in the future.
We’ve all been there: sitting in a meeting that has overstayed its welcome or took a turn that is no longer relevant to yourself. Just an obnoxious position to be in, and potentially causing someone to work late (or later than they’d like) because they lost productivity time to another meeting. A previous manager of mine once let new hires know that if they find themselves in this situation they should feel comfortable to dip out of the meeting early. Their opinion was that this time isn’t useful for the company and we should be aware of how we use time while on the clock. I have a similar sentiment - time spent in a (useless) meeting is time that could be spent being productive and, in turn, allow us to comfortably leave work on time.
As an organizer, be respectful of your attendee’s time. Do not allow meetings to expand to fill the time allowed - if the agenda is finished then wrap it up. This is something to especially be aware of during recurring meetings - sometimes these are going to run a little short. That doesn’t mean that we need to twist some arms to get more participation - it probably just means that the full time isn’t needed this week/sprint/month. Give folks some slack and give them back a few minutes whenever you can.
Be conscious and respectful of your time and your colleague’s time. Meetings need a plan, and if they don’t have one reject or cancel them. Bail on meetings that are no longer relevant to yourself and give coworkers time back whenever able.