Transform Meetings from Boring to Productive

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Jon Petz

What’s the number one cause of inefficiency and lack of productivity in America?
One word: Meetings.

What should be truly meaningful, useful time dedicated to the creation of tangible value is instead reduced to mind numbing, poorly facilitated, ineffective meetings that rob you, your workplace, and your organization of joy, productivity, and results.

What can you do about it?

Take action NOW. Deliver a life-changing experience instead of merely meeting an expectation.

Here are just a few ways to make all of your meetings more productive:

  1. Stop and think: Is the meeting necessary? Reduce the number of regularly-scheduled meetings. Obtain consensus or results without filling the conference room. Use alternate ways to achieve your outcome before committing a dozen people to an hour-long conference. A meeting invite shouldn’t be your instant response to every challenge or issue.
  2. Reduce the number of attendees. Stamp out “Over-Invitation Syndrome.” Do you invite the whole gang to avoid hurt feelings or to play to your own ego? Stop cannibalizing time. Invite only the key stakeholders. They can then elect to invite others on their team as needed. The ability of a group to make a decision exponentially decreases as the number of attendees increases. Invite people solely based on their value in the meeting.
  3. Decline any meeting invitation that doesn’t have a clear mission and agenda. Every meeting attendee must understand his or her purpose for being there. The invitation should answer two questions:
    - What is the mission of this meeting?
    - What is the outcome as a result of us spending this time together?

    If the invite doesn’t answer these questions, request the information. Know the value you are supposed to bring to the meeting. In addition, if you don’t receive an agenda within 48 hours of the meeting, you have a right to request it or decline the meeting.
  4. Start on time, even if everyone hasn’t yet arrived. You want people to show up on time? Begin without them. (Warning: Of course you must be on time as well).
  5. Never ask or allow others to ask, “What did I miss?” Do not let stragglers command control of the floor. Do not aggravate, punish, and disrespect the people who arrived on time by rehashing what has already been discussed.

During the Meeting
Meetings are opportunities for collaboration, inspiration, and results. How you prepare, facilitate, and follow up makes all the difference.

Issue new “Ground Rules for Productive Meetings:"

  1. Dedicate the first five minutes to stating the clear objective and desired outcome of the meeting.
  2. The default meeting length should be 15 minutes, not 30, as has been traditionally believed. Get in, get to the point, and get out.
  3. Don’t hold a meeting just to review material. Participants should review materials ahead of time. If the material has not been reviewed by the time the meeting begins, reschedule.
  4. Use meetings to resolve issues, develop projects, and interact creatively and amicably.
  5. Do not allow meeting presenters to prepare in front of the audience. They must arrive prepared or not come at all.
  6. Hold no meetings on Fridays or Mondays. Instead use those days to get everything done for next week.
  7. Make all meetings fully wi-fi accessible. Just before the meeting begins, encourage participants to keep their phones out and on (set to vibrate, of course) rather than hiding them under the table. However, make it clear that these devices must be used solely to serve the purpose of the meeting. Have all meeting materials—agendas, supplemental materials, and visuals—available on the Web, accessible by smart phones, iPads, and other notebooks.

You can learn more about creating more productive meetings at these AMA seminars:
The Effective Facilitator: Maximizing Involvement and Results

Strategies for Developing Effective Presentation Skills

About the Author(s)

Jon Petz is an engagement expert, speaker, and the author of Boring Meetings Suck: Get More Out of Your Meetings, or Get Out of More Meetings. For more information, visit