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Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings!

Can you genuinely claim that you receive or contribute value in every meeting you attend? I must admit that my experience leans heavily towards a negative answer. While there are exceptions, the question that beckons is whether investing our valuable time in numerous meetings is the optimal use of our resources. Could that time be better allocated to more impactful activities? Often, we find ourselves attending meetings without a clear understanding of their purpose, leaving us questioning their relevance.

I’ve noticed that since the pandemic, when many were forced to work remotely, virtual meetings became critical for connection (and quite rightly so) as we have transitioned into the “new normal” and people have more meetings in their calendars than ever before.

I have also noticed that in working with clients, their calendars are overrun by meetings, leaving little space to do their work – no wonder people are reverting to multi-tasking, working longer, and not taking breaks – all things that hamper personal productivity. I often find myself saying to my clients, “I know you’re good, but you’re not that good – you can’t be in more than one place at once!”

Organizations, too, are grappling with the consequences of ineffective meetings. When meetings aren’t run well or there are too many, the decision-making process becomes slower, and the quality of the decisions suffers.

When I think of the cost that companies spend on meetings – the number of attendees multiplied by their hourly rate the figures are eye-watering – not to mention the opportunity cost. Is that much benefit indeed being derived from that meeting? Food for thought, don’t you think?

I am sure the intended purpose of many meetings could be served in different ways. We need to take personal responsibility to ensure that meetings are:

  • Valuable uses of everyone’s precious time.
  • Not organized merely out of routine or adherence to “the way things are done.”
  • Centred on outcomes – what do we need to achieve as a result of this meeting?

Take a closer look at your calendar, particularly focusing on the last full week, and audit the meetings you attended. What insight does this provide you?

  • Did you know the purpose of the meeting, the agenda, and the desired outcome(s) of each meeting before attending?
  • What % of the time do you spend in meetings vs. doing focused work?
  • What is the actual value given or received at each meeting?
  • Would it have made any difference to that meeting or yourself if you had not attended it?
  • Is there an alternative, more efficient way of achieving the same result as attending the meeting?
  • If necessary, did you plan adequately for that meeting?
  • Did you challenge yourself or provide feedback on anything that could have been improved or done differently?

More importantly, what do you plan to do based on your insights? Insight plus action is an example of a growth mindset. What difference could this make to you?

As a result of this audit, are there any meetings that can be:

  • Cancelled?
  • Restructured?
  • Adjusted cadence?
  • Shortened?
  • Gradually phased out?

How much time would this free up for you? Even shortening meetings by 5, 10, or 15 minutes may seem insignificant. Still, once you multiply this by the number of occurrences, the time really starts to mount up and becomes very significant.

Well-conducted meetings facilitate improved decision-making and instill a sense of energy and motivation among attendees, propelling them to sustain the momentum independently. Changing meeting culture in organizations can be a difficult hurdle; however, we must start somewhere; otherwise, the situation will only worsen. You can influence (challenge) other people’s meetings (and you should), but before you do that, start with the meetings you organize or your immediate teams, as you will have more control over these and initiate change more easily.

Firstly, ask yourself these questions when you think about your meetings:

Do we need the meeting?
Recurring meetings, in particular, need to be challenged. Are they still needed? Does it meet the purpose it was intended to achieve? Could individuals make the decisions that the meeting was set up for? Could this be done by email, for example?

What is the purpose of the meeting?
Is the meeting title correct? What is its purpose? What are the desired outcomes? Do participants need to come prepared?

What is each attendee’s role?
Are the right people there to fill the necessary roles? Too many people and decisions are difficult to agree on. Are they a decision maker, an advisor, a recommender, or an implementor? If a decision is needed, ensure the decision-maker or their deputy attend

If the meeting is going ahead, how can you make sure it is effective? Here are some guidelines that will help you:

Have a purpose and intended outcome
To avoid poorly run, wasteful meetings, create prior clarity on what the meeting is about. Whether it’s a decision, a discussion, or information updates, frame the meeting structure in alignment with your goal and start by stating the outcome. Make sure the ‘why’ of the meeting is clear, and then define the ‘what.’

Invite the right people
To facilitate productive and successful meetings, carefully consider who should be invited. There are often people in the room who don’t need to be there, which is a serious time waster for people who don’t need to attend. If they are attending a five-minute segment, email them or ask them to participate at a specific time to avoid wasting their time.

Create and send an agenda
It is essential now more than ever to have a meeting agenda with a clear objective and set time limits in advance. Information sharing doesn’t require a meeting. Set the expectation that any information to be shared is provided before the meeting. Time box meetings (with a timekeeper) are used for co-creating, decision-making, commitment-making, and planning.

Ensure effective meeting etiquette
Tardiness doesn’t necessitate recaps, preserving everyone else’s time. Set time limits for each topic. Afford participants the chance to express their opinions. Occasionally, in decision-making, you may need to heed Jeff Bezos’ 2017 counsel to Amazon shareholders: “Disagree and commit.” Keep focussed and on track.
We have all felt that a meeting could have been an email at some point. Successful meetings should only have the people who need to be there. Let go of the “round-robin” approach and start and end on time. Take one-on-one conversations offline and have a parking lot for important information that should be discussed at another time or in another way to stay focused.

Get feedback on your meeting
Finally, don’t just sigh in relief that the meeting you organized is over and that you are happy with how it went, in your opinion. Gathering feedback will take a couple of minutes. Ask everyone participating in the meeting to rate it on a 10-point scale. Once everyone answers, go around again and ask them what would need to change to make the meeting a 10. This simple strategy will help you gain feedback and insight to make your meetings more effective.

Ahead of your next meeting, consider what steps you must take to enhance the effectiveness.  What tools will your team implement today to ensure your meeting time is valuable?


Author – Julio Arquimbau, InteraWorks Facilitator


About InteraWorks

InteraWorks is a global learning company on a mission to elevate the human experience at work. Specializing in professional development and performance enablement, we offer top-rated learning programs based on four defined conditions that must exist for individuals, and teams including Effective Edge, Best Year Yet, and the Essentials series. Our integrated learning framework and online tools generate immediate and sustainable breakthroughs in performance. Through decades of working at all levels in enterprise companies across many industries, we’ve built a reputation for helping people and organizations harness their focus, mindset, talent, and energy to produce results that matter most. 


We’ve defined four conditions that must exist for an individual, team or organization to be effective within the arena of performance and development; Accountability, Focus, Alignment, and Integrity. We’ll continue to explore these and more in our blog and look forward to your engagement and interaction with us. Stay tuned as we engage the edges.