9 Tips on How to Lead a Meeting that Doesn’t Suck

I love meetings, when they don’t suck. Here are 9 tips to make sure they don’t. (Click to tweet this.)

1. Clarify the goal of the meeting.

You need to be able finish this sentence: “This meeting will be finished when we have ___________.”

2. Set the agenda.

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You need a plan to answer the question or solve the problem you’re facing in the meeting. And you have to stick to it.

3. Ask the right people to be there.

Make sure you have the necessary people at the meeting to accomplish the goal…and no one else. People who are not fully engaged in the meeting make trouble. (I’m not very good at this one, honestly.)

4. Tell people how to prepare.

If others can present important information or options, have them do it. This helps people stay present mentally.

5. Make all your meetings optional.

If someone doesn’t want to work on something, they need to leave the meeting (or maybe the company). If all meetings are optional, you need to choose more carefully what you’re meeting about and with whom.

6. “Mine for conflict.”

I’m not sure who first said this, but it makes a lot of sense. You need healthy tension in meetings, where people disagree and discuss options. If that’s missing, you might be missing out, on better thinking.

7. End early if you can.

That way, everybody has some bonus minutes, and they leave thinking, “So-and-so really knows what they’re doing.”

8. But never suggest you’ll finish early.

If you do, people get lazy and do not pursue the goal efficiently.

9. Stay on target!

You’ve set the goal and the agenda with the right people who have prepared. Now you have to run the meeting. Run it! Don’t get distracted from the goal—when other things come up, capture them for later discussion, but stay on target.

SPECIAL BONUS TIP JUST FOR YOU! Bring snacks. You automatically cut the suckiness of your meeting in half. (Click to tweet this.)

What else makes meetings not suck? Leave a comment here

  • acjeske

    A few more tips, from Twitter:

    @richvillodas: “great list, Adam! I’d add one more. Be crystal clear about next steps. “Who’s doing what by when?” Thx for posting.”

    @TomLinNow: “One more: Think about WHERE to hold the mtg (conf room, standing, coffee shop, offsite) depending on the topic.”

    @GregJao: “well, if we’re making suggestions: identify decision rights & action: consultation, decision, or inform. What ? Are you posing?”

  • acjeske

    Here’s another from Twtter:

    @beaucrosetto: “give space for different processing/thinking: internal processing/dreaming, both concrete & abstract ideation.”

  • Tony

    // If possible, meet at the site of the problem (@39signals)
    // Remember 2hr meeting x 4 people is one person day of lost productivity, so make it worthwhile.