If You’re Going to Run Meetings, Make Sure They Don’t Suck!

When it comes to meetings, there are two issues.

Firstly, there are too many meetings. Most people I know would agree.

Secondly, a lot of the meetings you attend just suck. Meetings that are horrible to go to, they’re not necessarily resulting in anything of value for people. Those are an incredible waste of time.

Where these scenarios affect people is in their perception of how a good meeting should be conducted and more importantly, how long a meeting can actually run for.

I suggest to our business improvement students that project meetings should run for about four hours as a minimum. When I say that they look at me like I’m some sort of freak from Mars.

“We can’t run four hour meetings!”

“People won’t sit through a four hour meeting, you can’t keep people awake!”

In my experience, that’s a limited way to think about meetings.

How about this idea .. the meetings those people ‘currently’ attend, certainly can’t run for four hours because those meetings lack something.

I’ve had people in conference facilities, in large groups for up to five and a half days. A full day can be as long as 10 to 12 hours in the room, and nobody is falling asleep.


Because the design of that meeting is very carefully thought about in order to make it value adding for the people attending. If it’s value adding they’ll stay awake and be there as long as you want them there.

Any belief you hold that you can’t run a meeting for four hours or eight hours or three hours or whatever, are simply thoughts about what’s happened in the past.

Some of the obstacles to effective meeting conduct include these:

A focus on the past, not the future

I’ve attended busy business meetings in my previous employment when I worked in the corporate world, and it’s a conversation about things that happened yesterday and things that happened last week and blame fixing and not enough conversation about the future. I have to admit, that drove me nuts.

Attended by employees for whom the meeting is irrelevant

People are often invited for information sharing only. Today, there are better ways to get information to people. Having people at meetings that don’t need to attend is not smart business.

Poorly controlled meetings

Often meetings are not run with a sound underpinning process. The person running it is so caught up in the content of the meeting that the process gets out of control. And then people like me very quickly get the shits with the whole thing because it’s not going anywhere. Poor control is what we want to avoid.

Poorly designed meetings

The person who designs the meeting doesn’t know how to go about putting a meeting together properly. Mostly they fail to construct the meeting and the steps within it around the achievement of specific meeting outcomes.

Four tips for anyone thinking about running meetings that don’t suck

Number 1: Think about the agenda like it’s a construction plan

You’re trying to construct something; you’re moving towards a very specific outcome.

When you build an agenda, that’s the way to think – ask what is the outcome of this meeting? The outcome of that meeting is either going to be something soft like, people have awareness or they’ve agreed on something, or it’s going to be something that’s physical. Like you’re going to produce a list or you’re going to develop a plan. Once you have defined the outcomes, you then think about all the pieces that get you there.

Number 2: Stick to time!

If you develop a good plan, you can stick to the time. When I look at an agenda for a meeting and it says we’re going to run the meeting for 30 minutes and do 10 minutes of review of the previous month’s results first, then you better stick to that 10 minutes because when I get to 11 minutes, I’m getting the shits real fast. If the meeting runs over time, now we have an issue because I, and everyone else in there I assume, have planned our day based on a 30 minute attendance.

If you’re going to deviate from the time plan then get agreement on it.

Number 3: Your energy is the group’s energy

If you see a low energy group, then look in the mirror. If I sat there in front of you and I talked monotone in a presentation with low energy, you’d tune out immediately. To facilitate a meeting effectively, the facilitator must have the energy for it because it’s an energetic activity. Energy is infectious, if you want to run a high energy meeting, be enthusiastic and energetic yourself.

Number 4: Don’t get sucked in by digitisation

I believe we rely way too much on the digital aspects of our work. Everything has to be on a screen. You know the saying – death by powerpoint. There’s nothing wrong with analog, there is a time and place where it adds value.

In studying Steve Jobs from Apple and the quality of the presentations he used to do, I found out that he planned his presentations in analog and then delivered them in digital. The point is this – the analogue process allowed him to engage physically with the process of designing the presentation. He would use paper and flip charts and would then turn the work into digital presentations.

In some meetings it makes sense to have analog activities – put a flip chart or poster on a wall, have participants fill in post-it notes and move them around the table or up on a wall, you could give them a paper handout they might scribble on.

The more you can get people engaged physically in what’s happening in a meeting, the more they are moving. The more they move the more they will breathe, and ultimately the more awake they will be.

Don’t get sucked in by the digital world and passive participation by meeting attendees.

There you go, food for thought.

More Information

For more information visit www.9skillsfactory.com where you’ll discover one of the most significant professional development programs in the world today covering topics of leadership, influence, business execution, and lean six sigma.

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