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Meetings That Matter: How To Make Meetings Slightly Less Awful

Let’s face it, meetings are dreadful. Follow these 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. At 3Back, we help companies accomplish this through auditing and restructuring people operations, talent acquisition processes, and communication channels. However, one of the most common requests we receive from clients is to help them get the most out of their meetings. Leaders know they can achieve more during the time they spend with their staff, and teammates long to feel more kinetic around the table. Here are the best practices used by our clients to enhance meeting effectiveness.

“We’re all just dancing monkeys with no direction.”

Without guidance, it’s easy to feel this way. Just like rules and policies for expense reports and vacation, it’s important to establish clear expectations for teammates in all meeting formats. These include all-hands, one-on-ones, and staff meetings. Everyone deserves to know the level of participation needed for an effective exchange of ideas. Predictability creates psychological safety, which is required for teamwork, healthy conflict and creativity.

“Cancel half of your meetings.”

Take control of your calendar and axe those outdated meetings that are cluttering your schedule. By reducing the number of meetings, the ones that remain will be more powerful, productive, and valued by you and your team.

“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’re all human!

“Do not simply share updates.”

Create an environment where healthy disputes and outcome shaping will move the company forward around a decision made by the group. Using phrases such as “let’s debate this” and “I would appreciate counterpoints” or “someone take the other side of this” provide permission to debate. Team silence is more dangerous than team disputatiousness.

“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.

“Egos ruin meetings.”

People will over-talk and demand attention. They’ll rob everyone’s time so they can be seen, heard, and feel good about themselves. This happens when the leader fails to acknowledge the value in this person outside of these meetings. Be a thoughtful leader – accept and value your teammates to prevent grandstanding. 1v1s are great venues for delivering critical feedback, compliments,  and adoration. When people feel fulfilled, they become more dutiful and committed. This will be seen in group meeting behavior and overall effectiveness.


If you want your words to matter, speak less. We all know the person who talks incessantly, so find appropriate ways to prevent this from occurring by ensuring everyone gets a chance to communicate their thoughts. Have the courage to kindly interrupt and redirect the person to the topic at hand. It can be anxiety-provoking, but professionals who have high professional empathy care about the dynamics of the room and will work to preserve them even if it makes them uncomfortable. It’s hard, but it doesn’t kill us. Just be kind when doing it.

“Ditch the Devices.”

The most important aspect of a meeting is that people feel heard. It’s actually more important than taking notes. Of course, prohibiting devices isn’t always practical, but please be conscientious when making the decision whether to look at your screen or look at your teammate.

So…How to Make Meetings Matter?

Set clear expectations, create an environment for healthy disputes, establish actionable next steps, and ditch the devices and egos at the door. As a thoughtful leader, accept and value your teammates for who they are, speak less, and create a safe space for healthy conflict and creativity. This is essential for cultivating trust and growth among your teams. Now, go forth and conquer the conference room to put your company on a pioneering trajectory toward success!