Meetings have become a major part of organisational life.  Meetings well done can be highly productive and energising.

We also know they can be inefficient, unproductive and time wasters. I’m surprised at the number of people who declare they don’t know why they are at a meeting or why they have been invited.

I’m curious as to why people don’t ask why they should attend the meeting or have the confidence to decline if they believe they have nothing to contribute.

Too many meetings can lead to frustration and interfere with people’s creative thinking, focus and flow of work.  Ideally, if we can find the Goldilocks effect…not too many, not too little, just the right amount and facilitated in the best possible way, we may find a renewed belief in the benefits of meetings.

The paper Science and Fiction of Meetings states “Employees who attend a rash of bad meetings are stressed, dissatisfied with their jobs and more predisposed to leave. Improving just one meeting per week can lead to significant benefits for the organization while also contributing to the health and motivation of employees” (MIT Sloan Management Review, 2007).

It’s worth experimenting and looking at different ways to facilitate your meetings. With that in mind here are 12 actions you can experiment with and you don’t have to do them all at once, just one change may make a huge difference to the quality of the meetings you have.

  1. Get clear on what you are trying to achieve from your meetings.
  2. Plan meetings in advance, create an agenda, give people time and where possible seek input prior to the meeting from those attending.
  3. Establish ground rules and a shared agreement for how to work together. This is especially useful when the group disagrees or difficult behaviours present. It allows the group to return to their shared agreement and check in.  This is helpful when roles and expectations are compromised. It can manage disagreements and conflict.
  4. Define roles and expectations.
  5. Facilitate meetings to encourage participation, focus and outcomes. Find processes that can support this.
  6. Provide opportunities for constructive feedback. Ask people what worked well and what could be done differently to make the meeting creative, hydrated and productive.
  7. Invite everyone to take on the role of meeting facilitator – this helps build people’s skill, confidence and empathy. It creates variety and mixes things up.
  8. Get creative and be brave. Use different activities or processes to facilitate the meeting.  Find different environments to meet, ask people to offer their favourite relationship building activity, or way to start or end a meeting. Invite people to sit in different seats. Get people moving. Try not get in a rut or become overly habitual.
  9. Humanise meetings – ensure time for relationship building as well focusing on tasks.
  10. Include healthy snacks, food and water when necessary.
  11. Avoid back-to-back meetings they are draining and leave little time to process the previous meeting. Build in time between meetings and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
  12. Use an external facilitator. It can be useful to have meetings where everyone is part of the process.

Next time you organise a meeting ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • Why is it necessary to meet?
  • Are we meeting out of habit?
  • Is there real value in having this meeting?
  • Do people know why they have been invited to the meeting
  • What is expected of them in terms of contributing to that meeting?
  • If it is simply to download information is there another way to do this?
  • Are you prepared for different views?
  • Is there genuine interest in having people put forward their views and ideas?
  • Are you asking the right questions?
  • Have you allowed enough time?
  • What sort of meeting is it?
  • What are the expectations?


Feature image supplied by Unsplash.