How to Ruin a Meeting

How to Ruin a Meeting

The granular work of entrepreneurial leaders comes down to running meetings and having difficult conversations. Every organization – business, political or nonprofit – runs on “meeting fuel.” Many leaders, entrepreneurs, and managers spend most of their time in meetings, and yet, I’ve been surprised to find that many of them do a poor job at organizing, running, and following up on meetings.

COVID-19 has changed the setting of meetings from conference rooms to Zoom links; however, the core requirements for an effective meeting remain the same. Based on my years inside organizations, these are the mistakes I see most often – the ones that undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the person convening and leading the group:

Inviting the wrong people – Most meetings include people who have nothing to add and/or no assignment. Everyone in attendance must have a focus on follow-up actions or the meeting will flop. When I plan meetings, I rely on this succinct directive: “No audience.”

Failing to provide a clear format and purpose – “Getting together to talk” almost guarantees a bad meeting. If you can’t think of a clear purpose for holding a meeting, then cancel it. If there’s an agenda, send it out ahead of time. Develop and consistently use a familiar format. Let people know when the meeting will end and what the expected outcome of the meeting will be.

Failing to manage the atmosphere and logistics – Humans who are hungry, tired, hot, cold, need to use the restroom, or are sitting in a room that’s too loud, poorly lit, or equipped with uncomfortable seats won’t achieve what they’re capable of in a meeting. Also, end-of-day (or week meetings are rarely as productive as those that are convened early in the week and in the morning.

Coming unprepared and leaving without an assignment – If people don’t have to prepare anything ahead of time and feel they can walkout without any responsibility or accountability, you’ll waste a lot of time and money.

Failing to make meetings fun – The use of humor, prizes, recognition, and celebration can turn the dreariness of a scheduled meeting into something fun and anticipated. Many meetings are called when things go wrong or when big decisions need to be made. These meetings are naturally and appropriately serious. However, don’t forget to also gather people to announce good news, celebrate great performances, recognize individual contributors, or just to laugh together.