Top 5 Tips to Transform Your Meeting Experiences

"Too long", "Lack focus", "Repetitive", "Overcrowded", "Frustrating"...

Meetings. A predominant feature in today's world of work. And when done well, a useful way to gather different views, solve problems, and make decisions. But all too often, meetings can feel like a real waste of our time.

Research by in 2013 found that on average in the UK, office workers spend 16 hours per week in meetings, with a quarter of that time being unproductive. A scary figure. Until you compare it with the public sector, where the average time spent in meetings was a whopping 22 hours per week, with over a third of that being unproductive.

So where are we going wrong?

Effective meetings are generally regarded as having three key elements:

  1. They achieve their purpose
  2. They are short
  3. They feel like a great use of your time

Simple. But now take a moment to think about the last meeting you attended. How would it rate against these three measures, on a scale of 1-10? My guess is that there will be lots of meetings that rate pretty low.

The great news, is you can do something about it...

1) Be clear about your 'why'
This is paramount - the number 1 critical question to ask yourself for every meeting you attend is What's my 'why'? What's my purpose for being there? What value do I bring?  If you don't know why you're there, what's the point? And how can it ever be a good use of your time? If your purpose isn't really clear to you, ask!

2) Don't go...
Sound a bit crazy? Well maybe, but how many meetings do we just go to because we have been invited? We feel like we have to show our face, show willing, represent our team, even though it feels like a complete waste of our time. Sound familiar? Then take the initiative. Take control of your own time, and decline those unproductive meeting invites. Meetings are usually better with fewer people anyway!

3) Prepare your 'what' and your 'how'
Preparation, preparation, preparation. We all know the importance of preparing for meetings right? We just never seem to find the time. So we usually flick through the minutes right before the meeting, and just check whether there are any actions we've forgotten to do. Not great preparation for adding value to the meeting. Try planning time in your diary to consider not only what you want to say, but how you want to say it. And remember - listening, allowing others to speak, and being positive (even when you don't agree) are also a key part of your 'how'.

4) Convert challengers to supporters
Concerned about that person you know is going to challenge you in the meeting? Don't want to be put on the spot? Then do something about it. Meet with them 1:1 and ask for their thoughts, explore their concerns, and find solutions together before the meeting. You'll then have them as a powerful ally in the meeting.

5) Be brief, be bright, be gone...
Got an item to take to a meeting? Sent your report out in advance? Great. Keep your input short... No, shorter than that. Assume they've read your paper. There's nothing more painful than someone repeating what you've already read. Highlight key points with the 'Rule of Three':

  • Three key points about the issue
  • Three key risks you've identified
  • Three key actions you're planning to take

Short and sweet. Keep people's attention, save them time, and you'll get better outcomes. Oh, and when your item is finished, why don't you leave? Do you really need to be there for the whole meeting?

For an informal discussion about how we can help your business introduce a positive new approach to meetings, email

And look out for my future blog on Top Tips for chairing brilliant meetings...