Manage Your Meeting Size

Who you invite to a meeting is just as important as who you leave out.

As Humans, we’re obsessed with inviting people to meetings. This is true partly because we don’t want to hurt John’s feelings by excluding him from the next brainstorming session and partly because we are too lazy to figure out whether or not Suzy will be able to contribute anything at all. So, predictably, we just add them and move on with our day. After all, how much damage could a few extra people do?

The problem with this line of thought is that adding more headcount to your meeting invite list will geometrically increase the total number of communication paths that touch everyone in the same room as you.

For instance, If your meeting only has five people in it, then there exists a manageable ten total separate lines of communication to deal with.

There are ten communication edges in a five person graph

On the other hand, if you end up inviting John and Suzy, then you have a whopping 21 lines of communication to deal with. Thanks guys!

There are twenty one communication edges in a seven person graph

As you can see, this level of progression can get out of hand very quickly. The added increase in communication complexity can easily squash your ability to accomplish anything meaningful before your meeting even starts. To avoid this, try and determine ahead of time who will be useful in a meeting and who won’t.

As a rule of thumb, I try to keep my meetings to seven or less. Anything over that and the quality of communication breaks down rapidly.

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What do you think?