Success Habit #3  – How to hold fruitful meetings and how to avoid the maddening ones!

There has been a considerable amount of research in the US on the time and money wasted in worthless meetings. Figures have been quoted showing that we each attend between 30 and 62 meetings each month, or between 35% and 50% of our work time, that we waste at least 50% of that time, and that the cost of this wasted time in the US is $37 Billion  – see here if you still need convincing.

The interesting thing is that management believe two thirds of meetings are unproductive and yet they generally do nothing to change them. It’s not rocket science! It just takes some leadership.

Here’s the simple 5 step formula for a productive meeting –

  1. Prepare for the Meeting
  2. Lead the Meeting
  3. Stick to the Agenda
  4. Produce an Action List
  5. Revise and Close the Meeting

There are, obviously different reasons for meetings and different outcomes sought. Because of this there must be different types of meetings to suit them. This is why you cannot have a single ‘company’ agenda that covers all meetings. The generally accepted meeting types are:-

Status Update Meetings

These include project updates, regular team meetings, etc. where the goal is to inform on progress, identify or share issues/obstructions to progress, sometimes allocate tasks and generally get everyone on the same page. These should be short, well structured and cancelled if there is nothing new to report.

Information Sharing Meetings

These include business-wide and team presentations, keynote speakers, conference presentations, etc. where the key goal is to disseminate some information or learning to the attendees from the meeting host. These meetings require extensive pre- and post- input by all to be successful learning experiences.

Remember Toffler – The half-life of adult learning is 6 months.

Decision Making Meetings

Whilst many decisions are made by groups and individuals at all types of meetings, these are meetings specifically held to decide matters. They can be debates where pros and cons are weighed or opposing options can be presented and an authority can make a decision. These meetings require all the information available in advance. No last minute facts, no surprises and everyone contributes.

Problem Solving Meetings

These are often the complex and confrontational meetings where issues and problems that cannot be resolved in a single team are discussed in an open forum in the attempt to find a solution that has the highest and best outcome for all parties. Best to pick a standard problem solving tool for these.

 Innovation Meetings

These are the blue sky, mind mapping, brain storming sessions where ideas are shared and explored before being evaluated and ultimately prioritised. There are not many organisations that have these meetings at all and few who do them really well. Learn how to run these meetings before attempting.

Team Building Meetings

These are the ‘love-ins’ as one of my team members called them. The team bonding sessions and group experience activities that keep a team together emotionally and socially. Great events that if well run can create bonds that last a life-time and if run poorly are a humongous waste of time and money.

So how can you stop this incredible time and money wastage at all your meetings?


  1. Prepare for the Meeting
  • Do your research before even planning to meet
  • Ask 3 questions – Do we need to meet? Who needs to be there? What outcome is sought?
  • Prepare your Agenda and Materials based on the meeting type and outcome sought
  • Invite only those needed – time is money in business – keep the meeting time short
  • Give enough advance notice for attendees to read the materials
  • Tell attendees about the meeting, schedule, materials and outcome sought in person
  • Send your Agenda and Materials – accept declines and tell them the meeting will proceed
  1. Lead the Meeting
  • The host in most meetings most lead the meeting not just time keep – but actually lead
  • Start and end the meeting on time, do not re-cap for late-comers
  • Address the meeting and set the tone for discussion
  • Explain that interruptions from mobiles devices is not acceptable
  • Control the loud and aggressive, the over-sharers, the repeaters, and limit the clowns
  • Interrupt time wasters and get the meeting back on task
  1. Stick to the Agenda
  • You don’t have to stop-watch most meetings but you do have to watch the clock
  • If you have a well prepared agenda – you should cover all items in your time
  • If you do not cover your agenda – end the meeting on time and set another meeting
  1. Produce an Action List
  • All productive meetings have a desired outcome and all attendees are aware of it
  • Take notes during the meeting and encourage others to do likewise
  • Develop an Action List of tasks and responsibilities throughout the meeting
  1. Revise and Close the Meeting
  • At the conclusion of the meeting recap the discussion and paraphrase the outcome
  • Read out the Actions List to gain agreement on the responsibilities and time frames
  • Tell attendees if there is to be a follow-up meeting or communication
  • Thank attendees and close on time.

If you get invited to another Maddening Meeting that does not follow these 5 simple steps, you now have a good reason and the ammunition to decline!

Happy Meetings are Productive Meetings – and remember nobody like wasting time at meetings.