5 Powerful Tips for Productive Meetings

Too much time is wasted on meetings that don't do anything. In this episode, Get-it-Done Guy shares five tips (and a bonus) to fix your meetings so they work for you!
Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #527

Business meetings are easy targets for ire and indignation. When they're bad, they're really bad. They can be unproductive, time-wasting, ambiguous, soul-sucking, inefficient, unclear, vague, chatty, and redundant. But they don't have to be.

In episode 6, Meeting Madness 1, we learned how to make meetings better by understanding the kind of meeting you’re running. In episode 14, we learned to speed up meetings by assigning roles. And in how to lead a meeting when you’re not the facilitator, we learned to make sure everything was under control. Your control.

If I facilitated every meeting, it would be different. People who have been in meetings with me start by cowering in fear at my impressively productive approach. But they come around, and before long, every meeting becomes a model of perfectly productive process. Or else.

While it’s impossible for me (or, “glorious me,” as I like to think of myself) to run every meeting for you, here are the top five things you can do in your next meeting to make things run smoothly. And because you are glorious you, devoted to all that is good in the world, I'm going to give you 20% more things than any other top-five list you've ever encountered. So hold on to your hats, because it's going to be a wild ride!

1. Have the Right People in the Room

When you’re calling a meeting, make sure you know who will attend and why. Meetings cost money. Someone is paying salaries for people to sit in a meeting. A one-hour meeting with six $80,000 salaried engineers costs around $240. 

If you’re going to pay, at least make it count. Run through your proposed attendee list and ask yourself what each person will get out of the meeting. You’re inviting Sasha? Why?

Sometimes they need to be there for Reasons of Substance. Sasha needs information that will be shared. It’s a complicated issue. So sharing in person is best, as it lets Sasha ask questions and get clarification.

Or maybe decisions will be made. Sasha needs to be there to give input into the decision. Or perhaps Sasha will be in charge of carrying out the decision, and needs to understand the reasoning behind it.

These are Reasons of Substance for Sasha’s presence.

Other times, someone needs to attend for emotional reasons. They need to be part of making a decision, so they buy in to the result. Or they’re in a position of power and on an ego trip, and need to be present to get their ego stroked. Petty? Sure! Small-minded? Absolutely. And when you have a narcissistic power-mad colleague? Necessary.

2. Schedule Meetings at Odd Times

Rather than starting and ending on the hour, schedule your meetings for odd times. Like, 3:08 pm. Then start the meeting immediately at 3:08 pm.

The same way that our brains think of $9.97 as different from $10, 3:08 pm is different from 3:00 pm. People see the “08” and something in their brain believes it’s more serious, or more real, than 3 o’clock.

This also gives you eight minutes at the top of the hour to review your notes and get ready. Because of course you have notes to review.

3. Use a Statement of Purpose

First among your notes is your statement of purpose for the meeting. Every meeting needs one. It should go out with the meeting invitation. Repeat it for everyone at the start of the meeting itself.

“Weekly Status Meeting” isn’t a statement of purpose. It’s a description of the meeting. It’s a synonym for “Weekly Torture Session.” 

“This meeting is so everyone has a chance to ask the team for help on a pressing problem” is a statement of purpose. It might be called “Weekly Status Meeting,” but its purpose is helping people get unstuck. Remind everyone of that and you’ll have a much more focused meeting.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.