Why meetings fail and how to make them more productive

The Story:

Meeting fatigue is real. According to a survey, 70% of people dread them, with “lack of clarity” and "waste of time" being the main pain points. Inefficient meetings are everywhere, happening online, in real life, over the phone, and it sucks the engagement and motivation from your people and often they waste your time and money. Of course that is never the intention of the person who calls the meeting and it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many practical steps that leaders can take to ensure their meetings are productive and successful. Let’s dive in.

Establish Clear Roles & Responsibilities
One of the biggest issues with meetings is lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities; who should speak up, who has decision-making power, who should take notes etc? To fix this, make sure that everyone in the room understands what their role is before you even start talking about any other topic. It also helps if there is a list of expected outcomes from the meeting so that everyone knows what needs to be achieved by the end of it. In a nutshell, why are we here, how will we run the meeting, and what does good look like.

Prioritise Resources & People
Another common problem is not having the right people present at the meeting or not having enough resources at hand. This usually happens when too many people are invited to the meeting or when an agenda is not well thought out beforehand. Before calling a meeting, think carefully about who really needs to be there and make sure everyone who attends has all the necessary resources they need like documents or reports in hand. And when they do show up, make sure they know what you want or need from them, an idea, an opinion, a solution, an answer or action.

Good Chairing Skills
A good chairperson or meeting facilitator will keep everyone on track and focused while using methods such as time limits for each speaker, asking questions or setting up small groups for brainstorming sessions etc. Be clear on what role you take in the meeting, will you be the facilitator, a contributor, the devils advocate or decision maker. Each role needs you to behave differently. If possible have someone else moderate the discussions so that you can focus on keeping it on track and making sure decisions are made in a timely manner without anyone dominating the conversation or any hidden agendas taking precedence over actual results.


Most people learn how to run meetings from others, and even if they aren't great, they keep doing what they have always done or seen. 


Learn how to run better meetings, practice, be playful or creative and test the results. People generally do their best thinking when they feel safe, relaxed, and with trust in the room. So, plan your meeting to maximise these elements first. And my best advice, be receptive and listen without criticism.

No one likes inefficient meetings but with some planning, preparation and creativity you can make sure yours go off without a hitch! Establish clear roles & responsibilities before starting your meeting - know exactly who should be present as well as what is expected from them - prioritise resources & people - have only those present who really need to be there - and finally use good chairing skills – ensure that ideas are shared openly in an inclusive atmosphere while making sure someone remains in control of proceedings at all times – this will help ensure positive outcomes from every meeting you attend! With these simple steps you can turn your meetings into efficient ones that result in tangible action items instead of just more frustration!