Keep your meetings alive

Unproductive meetings are a waste of everyone’s time. There’s a lot of research on exactly how effective meetings really are – and regardless of country or industry it all leads to the same miserable conclusion. In a nutshell: There’s room for improvement. This might be a well-known fact by now, but it’s worth repeating: 47% of people consider too many meetings the biggest waste of time. According to Meeting King, an estimated $37 billion is lost per year due to unnecessary meetings. In a different post on this blog, my colleague asked „do you really need this meeting?“ and his eBook makes further points on making your meetings effective.
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3 simple ideas to keep your meetings alive

Following my colleague’s input on effective meetings, once you’ve decided that your meeting is necessary to have, you want to have the most productive meeting possible, whether or not it is a one-off or a weekly meeting. Meetings are a part of business and something we all have to deal with. Face-to-face is after all the best way to communicate. But as we all know from experience, meeting every week to discuss the same agenda items (can) eventually become tedious and quite boring. And when this happens the commitment, contribution and output will inevitably suffer.


„In the past, I have found myself easily distracted in routine weekly meetings due to various factors. In one situation my department leader set a weekly meeting agenda, which seemed like a good idea at the time. An agenda means people know what’s coming and what’s expected. But after a while, we started to feel like we were we in a time loop, discussing the same topics in the same order, with the same words. We stopped paying attention.“

George Barse


Breathe some fresh air into the meeting

Go outside for a literal breath of fresh air. If that isn’t possible, change the view of the meeting room, or even where people sit. Meet over lunch every once in a while. Just because the agenda is mostly the same – the environment doesn’t have to be.

Keep the airflow (and the people) moving

You don’t have to discuss every agenda topic the same way every time. You can use use short breakout meetings, insert a Q&A, videos, questionnaires, or basically, whatever it is that keeps your meeting on track and the participants engaged. Instead of sitting and discussing around the table, hang your questions about each topic (What’s the status of project XYZ? Have you got an idea about how to deal with the delay in engineering? Who’s got capacity to work on…?) on the wall (on flip chart paper) and let the people write their answers. Meeting finished :-).

Use an ‚air-freshener‘

A meeting break where everyone is checking their phone or emails is not a break. Neither is making notes about the meeting, or talking with the person next to you about what you were just talking about while you wait for the others to return. Leave the room, that’s an order. Don’t take a break, take a walk. Energize.

That’s all great, but…

Ultimately, your meetings will be most effective when they are structured. With an agenda, a set of ground rules, and/or ‚rules of engagement‘ and/or allotted timeslots to avoid lengthy discussions. It is the people that make the meeting effective, obviously. The final part of this post is dedicated to your personal contribution.

Make time to prepare

Everybody should prepare. If they can’t/haven’t, move the topic to next time. Which leads to the next point.

Keep your contribution relevant

Don’t contribute unless you have something of relevance to say. There’s a time and a place for saying exactly what’s on your mind, for rambling, or for just ’saying something‘. Meetings are not the place.

Send/read the minutes before it’s too late

The minutes are a useful track record but they often sit in the folder of unread messages until shortly before the next meeting. Logically, the minutes are part of the preparation, but not always. You should first read the minutes when the discussion is fresh in your mind, not a week later. Give yourself a chance after the meeting to write down notes, questions and ideas. Or, they’ll make you remember to have a follow-up conversation with a colleague about what he said. Do it now, instead of next week in the meeting.