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Making Meetings Matter

June 11, 2012

I know I have harped on about things that annoy me in the world of business, and unnecessary or badly run meetings are certainly up there. Unless I have a hangover and just want to sleep undisturbed of course. So here are my

TopTenTips for Organising a Successful Meeting (or not)

  1. Send out a Save the Date notice months in advance with only a cryptic clue as to what the meeting will be about. This will spark interest and generate lively discussion around the coffee machine about what the agenda could possibly be, and is sure to result in 100% acceptance.
  2. Invite as many people as you possibly can. This stops people feeling hurt and excluded, and ensures absolutely everyone and his/her dog can have their say, as they will all be equally as valid and relevant.
  3. If you are going to send out pre-reading make sure there is so much of it that nobody will have been able to get through it all without losing the will to live. This allows you to be the only person in the room that really knows what’s going on.
  4. Book a meeting room that is slightly too small for the number of anticipated delegates. preferably with no windows, broken heating and miles from the toilets. This makes sure everyone arrives early to get their space, won’t drink too much water (and we know how much THAT annoys me!) and there wont be any power struggles over the temperature of the room.
  5. Never start the meeting on time. Always allow stragglers the 15 or so minutes they need to find the meeting room, go and get their drink, go back to their desk to get their lap top, get a chair from another room and say hello to Sally in Accounts.
  6. If external visitors are coming, do leave them in reception for as long as possible, especially if they are going to be presenting and it might be useful for them to see the layout of the room and facilities. This will keep them on edge and on their toes and desperate to impress. Similarly, never offer external visitors a drink. They will see this as a sign of weakness and want to charge you more as they realise you have refreshment facilities at your beck and call.
  7. Never set an agenda, and certainly not one with timings on. Similarly do not set objectives for the meeting or let people know that there are specific outcomes required of the meeting. Any of these behaviours suggests a control-freakery and an assertiveness that others may find intimidating. It is much more useful to have a free-flowing irrelevant discussion that goes nowhere.
  8. Never book equipment in advance. If you know you will need a flip chart or a screen, there are likely to be ones in another room you can use, and it allows you to ask one of the minor participants to spend half an hour looking for one. Similarly, if you are going to do a presentation, don’t run through it too many times beforehand as you may get stale. It is amusing for participants to see you  as perplexed by your own slides as they are.
  9. Don’t try to control the meeting. It has its own form and will organically evolve the way it is meant to. If participants don’t feel like making a decision, don’t force them. Allow participants to prattle on endlessly about their hobby horses as this is part of the therapeutic value of meetings. If someone hasn’t offered a view despite them being in a critical role for the item being discussed, don’t  ask them their opinion directly.  They may have drifted off and it would be humiliating for this to be pointed out.
  10. Never finish on time.  Finishing early or on time is considered bad form as it leaves participants in a dilemma as to whether they have to go back to their desk to do some real work, or whether they can just go home early.

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8 Responses to “Making Meetings Matter”


  1. […] rants on the pointlessness of meetings, and how to organsie them badly, corporate jargon, and general frustration with office […]

  2. Vicky Says:

    Very true and I have one to add. Send out timings for international meeting well in advance so all flights can be booked etc to save money and then at the lase minute change the start time, no one will re-check until the weekend before when company travel agent is closed!!!!

  3. Martin Sanders Says:

    John Cleese would be proud of you

  4. Anonymous Says:

    John Cleese would be proud of you

  5. Janet Says:

    Love love love it!


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