How to run better meetings

How to run better meetings

In an era where digital transformation has permeated every facet of our lives, meetings almost always follow the same procedure as always. The traditional meeting, often criticized for being a time sink in the corporate world, may need a revolution. This change should not only be about moving from conference rooms to virtual spaces in some situations but rather a rethinking of the true essence and what should really count in meetings to promote productivity, creativity, and inclusion.

There are a lot of different aspects to consider when trying to optimize meetings. One thing is to schedule meetings for less productive periods of the day, for example, late afternoons, morning pre-coffee, right after lunch, or even the first thing in the morning. But be careful with just adjusting the time a meeting takes place without asking for everybody's opinion. Not everyone is the same. Some are more productive in the mornings and others are not.

A simple but I think very effective thing is to have an agenda. Having an agenda with time slots for each of your bullet points makes it easier for everyone to have their say than just listening to a colleague who just likes to talk all the time. With your agenda should come some kind of end goal or better to say what you expect to be the point where you stop discussing something in a meeting. On top of that, add a "Timekeeper" who keeps an eye on the time and steers the discussion back in the right direction should you digress.

Depending on your team culture you may add a meeting once or twice a week for some small talk. This is even more important if you are fully remote. This will cut out the small talk from the important meetings but will leave just enough space for you and your colleagues to talk about everything you want.

And if you don't have the budget for that just give each attendee 10-30 seconds in every meeting to say how they're feeling, either in general or about the specific topic. This can help a lot for everyone to engage in a meeting.

Question whether a meeting makes sense at all

Even though it can certainly be more than annoying over time, it is necessary to question whether you need a meeting or not. It's generally only if you need three or more decision-makers to come to a consensus on a specific topic or solve a problem. Of course, this also means that it is important who you invite to the appointment in the first place. Keep the circle small and only invite people who can contribute directly.

I think it is important that you don't equate silence to mean acceptance automatically. Sometimes colleagues will disagree with the results in a meeting but refrain from raising the point as they feel alienated or just view a certain topic as "case closed". Asking them to explicitly state if they're happy with the meeting results or if they feel some tension will get you some hints at where issues may be.

I can't remember what was discussed.

Always, always, always write down what was discussed in the meeting if the purpose of the meeting is a productive one. It is best if the timekeeper discussed above takes notes directly to reflect the flow of the discussion. Additionally, if the circle of participants is larger, a follow-up e-mail is great. That way you can highlight tasks assigned to people or add some useful notes or conclusions.

Respect people's time

This is a point I can't stress enough. With the points above you can show the attendees that you value their time and input. My personal view is that meetings without a purpose or an agenda will grind decision-making to a halt, increasing interoffice shenanigans, and in the end you and your team find yourself building worse things because you've spent so much time in worthless meetings that you don't have time to actually build a good solution. To respect people's time, you should also not overrun meetings or hold meetings that last longer than 2 hours.

Maybe some of these points are obvious and I've certainly forgotten some important points because effective meetings seem to be a difficult topic, otherwise, there wouldn't be so many people upset about ineffective meetings, would they? 🤔


  • Prepare some kind of agenda.
  • Set a time frame
  • Moderate your meetings
  • Invite the proper people
  • Write meeting notes and/or a summary
  • Check-in / Check-out on meeting attendees

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