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All meetings are not created equally. Here’s why.

Most people hate meetings. Yet, oddly enough, I happen to like them.

Now before you think I’ve lost my marbles, let me explain…

I define meetings in a very broad sense: a gathering of two or more people to communicate. Meetings can move mountains through honest communication. Meetings can eliminate waste and confusion by getting everyone on the same page. Meetings can bring to light risks the team can now work on to minimize.

Meetings are simply the gas that moves along progress.

So why do people hate meetings?

Maybe it’s because there are lots of bad meetings, such as meetings that provide more confusion than answers, meetings that make no difference to the team’s success or failure, or meetings that discuss all the wrong things. Ugh. No wonder meetings get a bad rap.

There are three kinds of meetings necessary for a healthy organization:

  • Working meetings: Team comes together to solve something
  • Pass down meetings: Sharing of information (All Hands meetings)
  • Report out meetings: Status updates, Metric reviews (usually includes recovery or continuous improvement plans)

Either you’re the Creator or the Attendee and in either role, only you can prevent BAD meetings. 

Meeting Creator:

  • Identify the meeting’s purpose and provide an agenda. No exceptions.
  • How many times do you get called into a meeting and have no idea why. If you expect someone else to provide information – tell them ahead of time so they can bring it and be prepared.
  • You are responsible to ensure the meeting’s productivity. Constantly assess if it is accomplishing your needs. People’s time is a company resource -it’s the same as spending money on supplies and tools. Are you being a good steward?
  • If a meeting needs a different format, change it.
  • If you find no one is coming it’s either seen as not productive or your time slot stinks. Change it!
  • If the meeting is no longer needed, stop having it. Heresy? No, more like reality.

Meeting Attendee: 

  • If you are a member of a standing report out meeting – own your information. The team is counting on you to share what is important for success. Come prepared to share the specifics of what is needed to improve your metric. Be prepared to elevate the “important”.
  • Don’t throw issues out without having first done your homework. If you see a problem, pull the right people together and solve it (Yep, you should have a working meeting before you throw out the issue).
  • Know your meeting types!  If you are reporting out, you better have had working meetings to support your report out plans.
  • If you are there to “just” listen – then take copious notes, communicate back, and think how you could pro-actively help the team.

Minutes are time consuming but necessary. Too long after the fact and they become worthless like day old fish. In a time-sensitive (or as a friend says “fluid”) environment, too long could be 12 hours. Have you ever tried:

  • An action item list. It’s a great way to track commitments, people and timelines.
  • A shared file. It could be as simple as an excel file and it can go a long way to keeping everyone on the same page.
  • A simple white board. Put it in a common area. Everyone can see it.

If we remember that the purpose of any meeting is communicating and we each do our part to communicate better – “meetings” may actually be liked. Now, who’s got the cookies to the next meeting?

Be intentional

10 Jedi Knight techniques to save your meeting


If this guy invited you to his meeting, I think it prudent to ask for the expected outcome in advance. Just saying…

Wow – my informal survey shows there’s a lot of strong opinions about meetings. Everyone’s been to “that meeting” organized by “that guy/gal”. There is a “force” and it isn’t with you. It’s the kind of meeting where you leave with less information than you had walking in the door.

If only you could get the last hour of your life back you think to yourself. There is a way. In fact, based on your input, I would propose there are 10 ways. 10 logical approaches to improve your meetings and help influence your immediate culture (i.e., respect, communication, team work, execution, to name a few). They are almost too logical, simple even, yet you don’t have to be a Jedi Knight to do start doing them.

  1. Before organizing a meeting – determine what you want from the meeting (information collected, information given, discussion/work, other). If you do not know what you want from the meeting, no one else will either
  2. Invite only those that are necessary to meet the objective of the meeting – less can be more
  3. Schedule meetings in open calendar spaces (Do not create intentional conflicts!). If you have to schedule over something, let the person with the conflict know why you had to create the conflict AND why they are needed in your meeting over another meeting
  4. Start the meeting with the purpose/objective – end the meeting with a summary indicating if the objective was met and what the next steps are
  5. If you do not think you need to go to a meeting, ask the organizer why you were invited. If there is not a good reason, decline to go
  6. If you can’t make a meeting, let the organizer know you can’t make it and why. Or, send a representative
  7. In the Outlook meeting notice: include an agenda and the expectation of the meeting
  8. When you are seeking information in the meeting – give people a heads up so they can come prepared
  9. If it is a cross-functional formal meeting, put out meeting notes – especially if decisions were made, or actions were requested
  10. Realize any gathering of two people is a meeting. Meetings are not bad if true communication is made

Let me know if any of these work for you or if you have more suggestions.

kind regards,