Now that Zoom is everyone’s virtual version of a conference room, it’s easier than ever to overload the attendee list. After all, adding names to the invitation takes just a few clicks. Why risk leaving anyone out?
But before you reflexively add 20 people to every Zoom invitation, step back and think about what the meeting needs to accomplish, and who needs to take ownership of the action items.
If you’re collaborating at the start of a project to make sure that everyone’s input is considered, or at the end of a project where many people’s buy-in is required, then 20 attendees, with their 20 different perspectives, might make sense. But if you’re meeting about a project phase where one or two people are empowered to take action, prune your attendee list strategically.
Involving more than the necessary number of people dilutes responsibility and accountability, delays action, and diminishes your ability to achieve your goals. I like the advice given in a 2018 Inc. article to make meetings more productive by limiting most of them to 7 people, plus or minus 2—that is, 5 to 9 attendees.
If you’re tempted to add more than a handful of people to a meeting invitation, consider this story.
In the 1890s in El Paso, Texas, an illegal heavyweight boxing match was set to take place. The mayor, concerned about controlling the rowdy crowds expected for the fight, called in the Texas Rangers, who would arrive by train.
When the mayor met the train, a single Texas Ranger stepped down onto the platform. The mayor asked, “Where are the others?” And the lawman is said to have answered: “We’re the Texas Rangers. One riot, one ranger.”
In other words, given a task at hand—or a meeting to be organized—involve only as many people as necessary to get the job done.
I like the message of “One riot, one Ranger” so much that I have a NetApp jacket with that saying on it. Other reminders might work better for you. But in any case, here’s to everyone enjoying better focused, more productive, more satisfying meetings in the future.
Tell me, what’s your rule of thumb for determining the ideal meeting size?