Skip to content

Meetings that Matter: How to Make Meetings Slightly Less Awful (Part 2)

Let’s face it, meetings are dreadful. Here’s a few more tips to lead engaging gatherings where things get done.

Every company, regardless of industry, wants to increase effectiveness. Companies want to be more impactful using less money, people, and time. Here are more of the best practices our clients use to enhance meeting effectiveness.

“You’re not invited.”

There’s nothing worse than repeatedly being invited to a meeting where we aren’t needed. Sometimes eliminating people from meetings is one of the kindest things you can do. This allows them to invest time in other projects or go deeper in their work. This can be a very thoughtful gesture. If they don’t need to be there, then don’t waste their time and trust they will reinvest it where needed. It’s our responsibility to step up and ponder whether this is a good use of company or your time.

“Stop lying to me?”

Keep your word with your colleagues. Start on time and end on time. Respect your colleagues’ time as much as you respect the content they provide. We all have tight schedules and keeping people beyond the allotted time can create a lot of psychological reactance. Even if you ask the team if they “can stay a little longer,” you often won’t get the real answer. They could be overtaken by social pressure.

“Prove it.”

Kindly show people why you invited them to the meeting by acknowledging their value and why they matter to the conversation. Also, allow them to prove why they belong by actively soliciting opinions and directing questions toward each member. Engagement is deepened when we feel important to the discussion and outcome.

“We humans cannot be trusted.”

We like to gossip, are chronically late, can be lazy, bond through drama, and recruit accomplices when mistakes are made. Don’t let meetings become the medium through which we do this. We all own the responsibility to ensure meetings are productive and inclusive.

“You could’ve just emailed us that.”

Multi-directional, team cross-talk should be present in staff meetings or an email probably could’ve handled it. While not always true, please contemplate whether a meeting or email is better. Email, working docs, and Gantt charts can be shared and live forever, but “quick meeting chats” die and can be inaccurately conveyed to others.

“Cull the agenda.”

When we arrive at the meeting, we should already understand what we need to “decide.” A well-developed agenda primes participants for specific topics and key decision points.

“Sorry, but you don’t measure up.”

Everyone has an internal “meeting measuring stick.” The way you run meetings affects attendees’ opinion of you as a professional and your overall credibility. We want people excited to meet with us, not excited it’s ending. Be a teammate where people are happy to see the invite pop-up on their calendar. Be kind, thoughtful, and creative with your time with them. They will reciprocate.

“One hour is an eternity when speed matters.”

Research indicates most meetings can be reduced to 45 minutes or less. My only caveat is 1v1s. These should never feel rushed because it takes time to get settled. Oftentimes, critical feedback is given during 1v1 time and when executed expeditiously, it can feel abrupt and more painful to the recipient which results in less effective development. Be mindful of time while present with the person’s feelings. We are all human.

“Hi, I’m here! (now muting and cleaning out my inbox).”

Hybrid video-meetings are difficult for the host as well as the two-dimensional participants. Leaders must be inclusive and ensure the remote attendees feel part of the meeting and can participate meaningfully. Additionally, remote participants must also invest the energy to stay focused and be willing to overcome technology to have an impact. It increases the cognitive load on everyone, but fortunately, it’s becoming easier with better and more reliable technology. Without genuine commitment, we can easily drift back into inattention and feeling disconnected. Please be sure everyone feels viable and part of the team. “Hi, I’m here! (now muting and cleaning out my inbox).”

“Well, that was a waste of time.”

Leave with action items. There is a great acronym (WWDWBW) that stands for “Who will do what by when?” Again, delegating or owning tasks and establishing timelines create predictability and security for your team. If done right, productivity will shoot through the roof.

How to Make Meetings Matter

As leaders and colleagues, it’s our responsibility to ensure meetings are inclusive, engaging, and purposeful. By eliminating unnecessary participants, sticking to our schedule, demonstrating the value of each attendee, organizing well-constructed agendas, and concluding with actionable items, we can transform meetings into a valuable use of our time.


Jason Halbert