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10 ways to run your meetings more efficiently and stop people hating you


How to run meetings in a. better way
How to run meetings in a better way


When you run a crappy meeting with twenty people in the room or in a virtual meeting - I guarantee you attendees think you're an idiot and resent you. Well at least a couple of people on the call and not the brown nosing sycophants.

32 years of meeting and I'd say that 90% were pretty useless.


Let me help you to see why your company needs to stop this crap...

Firstly, twenty people (often managers) on an average wage of say $80K. Means each participant is costing on average about $50 per hour.

So a meeting with twenty participants - is running you at about $1000 per hour just in wages.

If you make that an all day meeting that's $8K per day in just human costs.

It also means there are underlying g costs of the company for those hours... the cost doesn't sleep.

If you're a startup you are burning valuable cash and time.

If you're a big company - you are being inefficient and fuelling a culture of resentment.


But more importantly you have twenty human beings that will be in a room - or on a teams call. Valuable people that could be doing things to take your company forwards if they were not in that useless meeting.

"But"... I hear you say, "They are contributing when they're in that meeting..."

Really? Every meeting? Everyone getting value? Everyone contributing? (Steve coughs with his hand in front of his mouth uttering something that sounds like 'full quit' or something.)


Do you know how many calls I've come off and people say "What a waste of time." Way more than the "That was awesome... we need more meetings."


Here's my 10 rules that I think can make meetings better:


Rule 1: Ask do you even need a meeting

How many times have you sat in a meeting and for one hour simply watched a conversation between two loud mouthed people. They occasionally break for air when they remember another fifteen people are on the call.

Or how often have you successfully cleaned your inbox during a meeting - thinking - "Why I am even here?"


Meetings are often just set up out of habit or a reflex. "Let's have a quick meeting. Let's get the team on a quick call."

You need to ask if a meeting is really the right thing to do. If it is the right tool? Do you need to take ten people out of their work rhythm and get them all into a meeting? Challenge every time you think "we need a meeting." Instead ask "what is the best way to tackle this?" Maybe it's a Stormboard or a virtual whiteboard. Maybe it's everyone get on a virtual poll.

Is this really a conversation between two key people rather than a meeting for twenty?


There are multiple ways to communicate - get opinion - get inputs that are way more efficient that sitting on a Teams or Zoom call for an hour. Or worse - have everyone pick up their drink and head to a meeting room for an hour. Especially, if in truth, a meeting was the wrong solution.


Always ask - "Do we really need a meeting."

People will appreciate you way more if their weekly calendar is not crammed back to back with meetings. No one looks at the one hour slot and thinks "I wish someone would book a meeting."


Rule 2: Physical meetings Tues to Thursday (No Monday and Friday)

As someone that has lived away from HQ for most of my life - I can tell you a Monday 9:00 am meeting is a killer. Even worse is a Friday meeting that finishes at 5:00 pm.


Why? If people need to travel to a location - and a meeting starts at 9:00am or finished at 5:00pm that means they must travel in their own personal time. Sunday night trips so you can be in the office for a meeting set up by someone that lives ten minutes from the office - "because it's convenient for them" is selfish and horrible. It goes against everything in work life balance.

Same for that 5:00pm finish on a Friday. The organiser gets in their car and drives home and is with their family in thirty minutes. While many of the team are still on a plane at midnight.

Stop this shit !


Mondays and Fridays are the worst days to travel - period ! Most expensive - most crowded and most travel delays. Be human - be kind - be thoughtful.

Ban Monday and Friday physical meetings - period.

If you absolutely must do it ... no other alternative - start at 1:00 pm on a Monday and finish at 1:00pm on a Friday. Let people avoid a night stop over or a 4:00 am start and midnight finish.


Not only that - if you take Monday and Friday for meetings - here's what happens.

Monday is "sort my chaotic inbox out from the flood of late Friday mails that people dropped on me." If you run a meeting at 9:00am (even on teams) on a Monday - expect cameras and mics off while people sort the urgent stuff in their inbox. They won't be engaged.

If you have meeting until late on a Friday - then you leave no time for people to finish up their weekly work - so they end up late Friday night emailing / calling Or worse - over the weekend to catch up - because they were stuck in your shitty meeting Friday afternoon.


Stop it! Important meetings Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday


Rule 3: No Agenda - No Meeting

I have been guilty of this in the past. But if you get on a meeting - into a meeting and there is no formal meeting agenda with names against topics - walk out.

Set a rule in your company. If there's no clear agenda with what the meeting will cover - people are free to refuse to attend.


How many meetings have you been in where the opening comments are "Okay so what are we doing today?"

Someone said the week before "Okay that's a problem; can we get everyone on a quick call next week and go through it..." A meeting was booked - named "Problem solve." And then no one took charge- no one did an agenda. And the meetings is sort of a mixed bag of all kinds of things with no clear direction. And a lot off confused people.


Build smart agendas - and if that agenda feels light - or weak - cancel the F'in meeting.

If there is no agenda - then don't attend.

If there's no agenda - contact the organiser and say "Where's the agenda."


Having purpose and a structure to the meeting will make it way more productive.


Rule 4: Goal of the meeting

I'm going to go one further now. Up above the agenda should be a single clear goal of that meeting. Why do we have twenty people in the room? Why do we burn this time and money?

What do we want out of this valuable meeting? What's the main goal?


If there is no clear goal of that meeting - it's a social gathering. (Which it can be but that needs to be the goal). Everyone in that room needs to know what the point is - so they can keep the meeting on point. If it drifts - everyone should be pointing at the goal and asking "Are we solving that?"


"No Goal - No Go"


Then ask if the Agenda under the goal will resolve that goal? If not - change the agenda.

Then ask if the people on the invite list can actually achieve that goal? If not get the right people or cancel the meeting.


Rule 5: People can leave if no value

It shouldn't matter if it is the CEO running the meeting. If it is a shitty - valueless meeting then people must be free to get up and walk out. Allow your team to go off and do things actually of value.


How many meetings have half of the people in there that either think "This has nothing to do with me..." "This isn't helping me, it's a waste of time..." "I could be doing those urgent things you told me were the most urgent ... until you told me this meeting was urgent..."


Create a meeting culture where if ANYONE is not contributing or getting value. They can leave - and no one should have an issue with it.


Let people go and do productive things - that is what you pay them for. You don' pay them to be bored on zoom calls.


Rule 6: 45 minute meetings (Give time to live between meetings)

This one changed my life.

How often are people late for the meeting saying "Sorry just finishing up another call..."

People have diaries that are crammed full hour to hour.

No time for a stretch - no time for a drink - no time to Pee. It's stupid!

Whole days with back to back to back one hour meetings.


Why do you book a 1 hour meeting? Because the Outlook default meeting setting is 1 hour! Period!

Get your IT department to make it 45 minutes. TODAY !!!!! NOW !!!!


Why?


If you make it 30 minutes you will stack up back to back 30 minute meetings - as people will squeeze stuff a 30 minute meeting in as it can be useful. 45 minutes is an odd number - long enough to get stuff done - allows some occasional run over - but it only leaves that 15 minutes to the magical "hour" as people love to book on the hour - you cannot cram another 15 minute meeting in. It psychologically has no sense. So that means you get at least 10 minutes to get up - stretch - grab a coffee - walk between meeting rooms (how often do people come crashing in open laptop in had saying "Sorry I have to get from the other meeting room on the other side of the building". Sweaty and disturbed and out of breath.) - WTF? Why would you do that to people ???


45 minutes - hard stop - and 15 minutes to break - recharge - get to where you need to be - grab refreshments - take a bio break.


Rule 7: One person runs the meeting - and must be empowered

How many meeting have you been in where two Alpha characters (yes I'm one) just take over the meeting and railroad it to their own personal agenda. The meeting goes off track and it's a personal peacock session of who is the "best" and ideas win by brute bullying.


You need to create a meeting owner culture - where that behaviour is not tolerated - and where meeting grabbers get "timed out" and voted out of the meeting. Even if it is the CEO.

Maybe a yellow and red card system? Yellow they get a first warning - Red they have to leave. The team can anomalously vote them out of give them feedback to shut up.


Because there needs to be one person that runs the meeting. Owns the agenda - owns the goal - and makes sure that meeting stays on track. Makes sure that ALL voices (that want too be heard) are heard; and not just the big mouths with the smart arse questions and comments.


Often you can have one persons run the meeting but nominate another to be the "Referee" or someone that keeps everyone on time - and stops rambling side discussions off topic.

A strong "Thanks Billy... good point, but not on topic today - take it off line and let's focus on the goal of this meeting." Is an important intervention.


If not - you will not get through the agenda and you then need another meeting to do what this meeting should have done.

(Agenda - have timings - have people responsible - have the most important thing first or you'll run out of time - you always do - less is more.)


And then the meeting owner has one job. Systematically get through that agenda to solve for the goal.


Rule 8: Respect different personalities

We had an awesome coach come into my last company - Patrick Stahl - and he helped me understand better about personality types in meetings. You need to understand that not everyone is a big mouth (like me). Not everyone is extrovert (like the sales team). Not everyone will bully their views to the top of the agenda.


Once you understand this - make sure that people with different personalities get to input. Many won't do it in the room - so allow them to follow up afterwards - after they think about it. Allow an anonymous chat (in a teams meeting) - At least go around the room and ensure everyone is asked - or the big mouth bully will just dominate with their often wrong opinion.


If you've invited everyone - then ask for and respect their opinion. If not - don't invite them - better still don't have a meeting - just have "The bully" send you a list of opinions. Save everyone the time and the pain.


Rule 9: Follow up minutes as "actions"

"Thanks everyone have a great day." And that is the last that meeting is ever thought about. The team goes off and jumps on the next call or gets into the next meeting.

There's no record of the meeting - random people took random notes - and things move on. If you're lucky some people will have got some take aways and some actions. Some even leave more confused than before the meeting.


Pathetic.


As the meeting owner - make your agenda in a table format.

Topic - Time - responsible - and then three blank boxes - Follow up actions - who - when

Then fill this in as you got through the agenda.

You need people to walk out of the meeting with either:

Clarification or actions. (Best is both.)


You should follow up every meeting by sending out the sheet with who now needs to do what; and a clear summary against the goal. Did the meeting achieve what it was meant to do. What is the aligned outcome of the meeting.

Send it to everyone in that meeting - or people that needed to know that weren't in the meeting.

Follow up actions - expectations and timings are critical if you want to close the loop and get continuous progress.

There's no excuse now as AI in Zoom and Teams will summarise and set tasks for you! Use it.


Meetings for meetings sake with no clear follow up - THEN DON'T HAVE A MEETING !


Rule 10: Don't set up recurring meetings

This will be counter intuitive to most people.

"Okay can we set up a monthly meeting every Thursday at 2:00 pm and have these eighteen invitees on. And can you set that to repeat until 2027."


Read that again. have you done it? Do you do it?


If you want numbness in meetings then set up a weekly or bi-weekly conference call or meeting. Make it better by having half the team in physical meeting room and half calling in from nine different time zones. People will love it - and especially if it's three hours with update death by powerpoint from various teams - especially if most of the other teams don't give a shit about the update on "Outer Mongolia and the small metal working team there. And their progress on spring deformation."


Nothing is more of a waste of company time and resources than regular "update" meetings with no fixed definite and specific goal - just "Weekly team update meeting."

That means no thought - no crafting - no working on business needs. It's about wasting time preparing a powerpoint to tell people what you did last week. With one of those days being preparing for this meeting last minute because "Oh shit I haven't done my weekly update presentation." So a quick copy n paste and hashed together 10 slides.


If you are a manager that needs an update - get on the phone. Don't have a weekly beauty parade of your team because it's an easy weekly dump that you can then summarise for your boss - so they can summarise for their boss etc.


By all means have specific update meetings of the entire team to be on the same page - but do it when you need to update - and try and fit it into business needs - not a regular Tuesday afternoon slot - convenient for you but the poor sod in Taiwan is awake on that meeting a midnight (every week).


Get out of the habit of shitty fixed meetings - and instead plan ahead - craft meetings that bring value. Do weekly updates via a 5 bullet points - focusing on "What do you need help with? - what is at risk?" Mail them in... if you need help. If not let the team get on with work. Have meetings to help solve important problems - not give weekly progress updates.


So that's my list - if you have other suggestions then do throw them in the comments to help the community.







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