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6 Ways To Make Your Boring Meetings Better

By Julie Neidlinger on January 23, 2013 in News.


Are your meetings boring or unproductive?

Boring meetings.

Let’s have a moment of silence for the many hours of productivity we’ve lost over the years. (Pause.)

It’s unfortunate, really, that meetings get such a bad rap. You gotta have them. You gotta to meet with your team, stay on track, find out what’s happening, communicate, and all that stuff. Can they be made into something better?

People rarely say they “get” to go to a meeting. Usually it’s they “have” to go to a meeting.

What Causes Your Meetings To Tank

Every bad and boring meeting involves team members who are thinking one of the following:

  1. This meeting doesn’t even apply to me.
  2. I didn’t prepare, so I’ll just wing it.
  3. I don’t know what the point of this meeting is.
  4. This wasn’t a meeting. It was a coup d’état.
  5. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.
  6. I drove all this way and took off time and we’re not deciding anything.
  7. He said it was a brainstorming meeting, but it’s actually a monologue. Nice hidden agenda, buddy.
  8. All we’re doing is complaining about stuff.

If anyone on your team is thinking this, your meeting is going down.

Make Your Meetings Awesome

Here’s where, in a blog post about making better meetings, you might read list of things like having team moderators, using X software, playing trust games, or (gasp) using color crayons instead of pencils to free the mind.

Well, no. Some of that might be valid, but they are more surface distractions and don’t get to the heart of what makes people angry or full of dread when it comes to meetings. The crux of their annoyance: you wasted my time and I have nothing to show for it.

Try doing this instead:

  1. Don’t make someone attend a meeting who doesn’t need to be there. You only inoculate a person from paying attention in future meetings when they should be there, because you trained them to ignore what happens in meetings.
  2. Insist on everyone arriving prepared and on time. The meeting isn’t the time to look over notes or make the notes. That happens before on individual time, and not on team time.
  3. Have a specific goal, and state it at the beginning. Everyone should know where they are headed so they can get things back on track if there’s any veering.
  4. Have marching orders at the end. Give your team clear instruction on what to do after the meeting is over. If there wasn’t anything to do (it was just an “update” meeting), clarify that. Say “there is no action to be taken, but we wanted to keep you informed.” Make it clear. No one should leave unclear about what the meeting meant for them.
  5. Cut the time. Keep your meetings as short as possible. Stand up, if necessary. We have periodic standing meetings here at Todaymade. The idea is to keep things short, since we can’t get too comfortable (or sleepy) when we’re standing. We check in, report, discuss, and get back to work.
  6. No shame in bribery. If you have a long meeting, or an otherwise unpopular meeting, bribe. Bring food. We have Muffin Mondays for our Monday morning meeting here at Todaymade. A meeting first thing on Monday? Not so bad with a tasty muffin.

Wouldn’t you rather have a team that gets to go to your meetings rather than has to go?

And the last bit of advice? If you think you need five meetings, cut it to two. An overabundance of meetings within an organization isn’t a sign of good organizational health.

[Question "What was the worst meeting you ever attended? What made it tank?"]


  • Joshua Ternes

    Awesome Video from Patrick Lencioni about types of meetings. He presented this during the faculty meeting for the 2012 Global Leadership Summit.

    • Julie Neidlinger

      Thanks for sharing, good video.

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