How to Run a Meeting That People Will Actually Like

(And no, that's not an April Fool's joke!)

How to Run a Meeting That People Actually Like

Sometimes, when you send out a meeting invite, you wonder if people on the receiving end are letting out a collective groan. A lot of people hate meetings, and you’re not looking to inflict pain, but this one just has to happen.

If meetings are meant to help move projects forward and align the team, why do people hate them? Often, meetings that are meant to increase efficiency wind up wasting valuable time, and meetings that are meant to improve communication actually put people on totally different pages.

Meetings can waste time as well. Studies have found that many professionals consider 50% of their meetings to be wasted time — and that comes at an additional business cost as well: they’re not able to use that time to work on high-priority projects.

Whether you already feel good about the meetings you’re running, or wish you could find a way to make them more palatable, your peers would probably appreciate any thought and effort into making your meetings even better.

Wondering how to run a meeting that people actually like? This post will explore how to run effective and productive meetings, drawing on both organizational psychology and experience.

Many professionals consider 50% of their meetings to be wasted time. Click To Tweet

Examine the current state of your meetings

Effective meetings need a leader who is designated to kick things off, keep the conversation on track, and wrap the meeting up at the end. But an additional part of being that leader is assessing whether your meetings are actually accomplishing anything, and whether the team is happy with how meetings are going.

If you want to improve how you meet, start by examining the current state of your meetings, and ask your colleagues for their honest opinion. Do they find the meetings useful, or are they a waste of time?

Decide if the meeting even needs to happen

Many professionals don’t like meetings because they feel as though they don’t accomplish anything. Indeed, many meetings can be replaced with a quick face-to-face or video chat, phone call, or email. When you’re about to put together a meeting, ask yourself about your objectives. Why does this meeting need to happen?

For standing meetings, survey the attendees in advance to ensure there are topics to cover and you’re not just “meeting to meet.”

For standing meetings, survey attendees in advance and ensure you're not just 'meeting to meet.' Click To Tweet

Only invite people who need to be there

Maybe your meeting does need to happen. How many people truly need to be involved? The more people you have, the more difficult it is to get things done.

Ever been on a call with 15 people where it took 10 minutes just to figure out who was on the line? That’s tough when it’s only a 30-minute meeting. Keep meetings to essential personnel only, and use memos, email updates, or your internal collaboration platform to loop in others afterward.

According to a classic Harvard Business Review article, the most effective meetings have between 4 and 7 people. This is still true — if too many people are at the meeting, the likelihood that it will actually deliver value is threatened.

Prepare beforehand

There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a meeting and finding that you can’t get online or open a PowerPoint deck. When it seems like a meeting organizer isn’t prepared, people’s concerns about wasting time skyrocket. If you’re running the meeting, it’s your responsibility you to make sure your technology actually works — before the meeting begins.

If you’ll be working from an agenda with your team, spend 5 minutes reviewing it together before the meeting. Divide up parts and discuss transitions from one item to the next, and decide what to do if meeting attendees go off track.

State the goal of the meeting both in the meeting invite and at the beginning of the meeting. This helps people stay on track and ensures you don’t end up trying to cover too much ground in an hour.

Stay on topic

If a meeting lacks focus, it’s hard to keep the attention of everyone there. As a meeting leader, it’s up to you to stay on subject to keep your team engaged.

The best meetings occur when an authoritative leader keeps everyone on topic. It’s your job to manage tangents and stay stay on track. Not only do you need to come to the meeting with an agenda, but you need to stick to it.

Ensure that people feel like they can be involved and heard, but also be sure to rein things in if it seems like the meeting is getting off course or if an item seems to require additional discussion outside the meeting.

Not only do you need to come to the meeting with an agenda, but you need to stick to it. Click To Tweet

Prioritize tasks and follow up

At Apple, for example, employees have productive meetings thanks to making sure each task has a D.R.I., or a “directly responsible individual,” according to 99u. Tasks are assigned in the meeting to make sure that everyone understands who is responsible for which tasks. This increases accountability and follow-through.

Many times, meetings seem effective while they’re happening, but there’s no follow-up afterward. If the meeting organizer doesn’t follow up on action items, then the momentum from the meeting dissipates. Following up is an essential component of having a meeting — so essential that we’ve covered it in depth.

Running more productive meetings

You might not be able to change everyone’s mind about meetings, but you can make the ones that you’re running more productive. Take a thoughtful look at how you’re running meetings now and try out some of the tips here — and you’ll be well on your way to running meetings people actually like.

Check out Redbooth’s roundup of helpful expert meeting resources from Medium, HBR, Time, Mashable and more.