Make Meetings Matter

In Things to Think About by Mark Sylvester6 Comments

Business meeting As you roll into the last few weeks of the year there will be opportunities to make your meetings matter. Some meetings will be strategic, some recapping the year, some to brainstorm ideas for the New Year and many where the agenda is simply to have fun! Here is an interesting way to think about meetings that will help you run them more efficiently. When meetings are effective, you will find better participation, less distraction and everyone will feel like you didn’t waste their time. There are basically four types of business meetings. By identifying what type of meeting you are having in advance, you set a clear vision of what’s expected of the attendees. Brainstorming Meetings. These are the lively ones. Start by letting everyone know that you are just looking for ideas. Circulate a brief in advance to let everyone start thinking ahead. Not everyone is good at impromptu idea-generation, many like to think offline, then show up prepared with some ideas. Information Meetings. This is usually a one-way conversation where the audience needs to be informed. Think about how you might do this in a clever way. A good way to have this type of meeting is with everyone standing up. It’s important to get everyone together for an all-hands meeting, but consider the disruption. Would an email would be more effective? Decision Meetings.. Attendees need to come to this type of meeting knowing that a decision will be made. These meetings are very conducive to building morale and confidence. Making decisions means you are making progress. Everyone loves decisiveness, and being a part of the decision is empowering. No-Agenda Meetings. Think lunch or breakfast or a holiday party. Plan a no-agenda lunch or coffee once a month. Talk about whatever comes up. When you schedule this type of meeting, don’t bring a hidden agenda with you. In practice, it’s challenging to have a singularly focused type of meeting but people will appreciate that you are working at being more efficient and respectful of their time. Here’s an example of a meeting that uses three of the types in one session and how you could communicate it.
On Thursday, we are going to have a product planning meeting. The first part of the meeting we will hear from Marketing about information that we will use to brainstorm new ideas. After brainstorming we will decide which of the ideas to pursue so the product team can start planning.”
This blends the information, brainstorming and decision type of meeting into a single session with a communication that sets expectations for everyone. Take a look at the meetings you have coming up. Are you and the attendees clear about the type of meeting? Does everyone know what’s expected and how to prepare? Time is too precious to waste on bad meetings.


  1. Here’s a great list of some guidelines that we used at NPR West, where it was a poster in our conference room.


    1. Listen – Listen actively. If you’re talking you’re probably not listening.
    2. Question – Get your doubts and concerns taken care of at the outset.
    3. Engage – Pay attention and wrap your mind around what’s going on.
    4. Contribute – Add constructively to the process and discussion.
    5. Learn – Focus on learning something from others even if you think you already know it.
    6. Decide – A key purpose of meetings is to make decisions and agreements—be sure you know what they are.
    7. Commit – Be prepared to stand behind the decisions and agreements—you had your chance to change or influence them.

    1. Author

      Kerry, sounds like a great list to post in the room where you have meetings. Thanks for posting it.

    1. Author

      You are welcome Tracy. Let us know how it works in your next meeting.

  2. Mark, great article and great wisdom for those of us who are hosting team meetings. Folks may enjoy reading Lisa Kay Solomon’s book, “Moments of Impact.” Here is a brief description of her book: ‘In our fast-changing world, leaders are increasingly confronted by messy, multifaceted challenges that require collaboration to resolve. Moments of Impact cracks the code on what it takes to design creative, collaborative problem-solving sessions that accelerate innovation and lasting change in organizations.’

    1. Author

      Ken, thanks for the link to her work. I am guessing that many of the 805 readers will be encouraged to check her out.

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