Making Meetings Work: 5 Tips

Why do so many people loathe meetings? Quora, a massive Q&A database, got numerous responses when it posed that question, including:

  • Being asked to attend when it’s not necessary,
  • Having to watch one individual hijack a meeting, and,
  • Getting last-minute invitations.

So how do you minimize the groaning when you have to convene a multi-employee focused conversation? Here are some suggestions:

Determine whether the meeting is necessary. Sometimes it’s a good thing to have all of your attendees sitting in the same room (or standing: Some experts actually suggest this, though there are multiple problems with such an approach). You can learn a lot by observing nonverbal cues.

But consider the content of the meeting and decide whether it’s necessary and will enhance the get-together’s productivity level. Look at other options, like conference calls, email threads, and screen-sharing applications. Keep in mind the money that’s being spent in terms of salaries and hourly wages, and determine how the meeting can best be conducted to minimize time and maximize participation and topic resolution.

Select a desirable time slot. If the individuals invited to the meeting share a calendar, it’s easy to see when everyone might be available (as long as your staff conscientiously enters committed time; you should stress the importance of this). An online meeting-scheduling service called When is Good studied 100,000+ responses to meeting requests a few years ago and discovered that Tuesday at 3 p.m. was the most successful slot.

But availability is only half the battle. While everyone’s internal biorhythms run in varying cycles, there are some times of day that are worse than others, like first thing in the morning and right before lunch.

Distribute an agenda ahead of time and stick to it. One page, half if possible. Assign the lead role to different individuals if appropriate: Changing the meeting’s “voice” can keep interest high. Tell both participants and leaders what they will be expected to contribute. Set time limits, and respect the attendees’ schedules by staying as close to them as possible. Start on time, even if everyone isn’t there yet.

Encourage participation from everyone. Nip extraneous comments in the bud, but write them down to be revisited later. Don’t let one employee dominate, and draw out the silent ones.


Summarize. You should be doing this at the end of each meeting – really, each segment of every meeting. This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out summary – just a brief recap before you move on.

Whoever is taking notes (and this can be a rotating responsibility) should send out an email or paper memo—whichever one is more likely to be read—touching on:

  • Comments that advanced the conversation,
  • Issues that were resolved, and,
  • Action items.

Meetings should solve problems, not create them. Good planning, communication, and facilitation should reduce your staff’s dread of these necessary gatherings.


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