how to have better meetings

how to have better meetings

The top 10 frustraters...

  1. Allowing attendees to ramble and repeat the same comments and thoughts.
  2. Doesn't start on time, stay on track, or finish on time.
  3. No specific action steps or walk-away points.
  4. No clear purpose or objective.
  5. Not inspiring or motivating.
  6. Not organized. No agenda.
  7. Too long.
  8. Repeating information for late arrivals.
  9. Weak presenter (unprepared, monotone, overly redundant).
  10. Boring. Nothing new or interesting.

In my half-century plus on this planet, I’ve been a part of leading, keynoting, and attending hundreds of meetings of all sizes within almost every industry. I've also talked with hundreds of people about their thoughts on meetings. Below, is what I think we can do to make meetings better.

If you're running a meeting...

  • Do your best to avoid doing or allowing the things that annoy people (review the list above).
  • Very Important: Make the meeting about helping your attendees leave better as a result of investing their time with you and/ or the group. Be sure to use some of the time to inspire and encourage people. A helpful question to guide you: What do I hope people will think about and do in the days/ weeks/ months following the meeting?
  • Respect your attendees' time and attention by preparing well, communicating well, and keeping the meeting on track.
  • Never fill or kill time. It's not why we're here. We're here to make good things happen for other people. (That's the universal mission statement.)
  • When fitting, before the meeting, connect with a few of your more engaged people and encourage them to help you keep enthusiasm and attention high by modeling those behaviors themselves. (It’s part of Leading Simply.)
  • If you have D-grunts on your team (disgruntled people who work to make things difficult), don't invite them if at all possible. Then ask yourself why you're allowing them to be on your team at all. Life's too short to tolerate D-grunts.
  • End your meeting ... meaningfully.

If you're attending a meeting...

  • Make the time valuable. Allow yourself to get something from the meeting. There’s almost always something of value when you look for it.
  • Be a grown-up.
  • Be attentive, answer questions, and be a part of the discussion where you can.
  • Participate in the same way you’d like people to participate if you were leading the meeting.
  • Avoid the D-grunts (the disgruntled people). They don't make good things happen for people and likely won't help your career. (Really.)

And whether your running the meeting or attending it...

Remember, perfection is tough. Give people the break you’d like to be given. (It’s one of the ways to Love Your People.)

That's it.

Connect. Inform. Learn. Inspire. (Enjoy!)


Remote online meeting thoughts...

When so much of the world went remote in 2020, we asked our subscribers and customers to share what they love and don't about remote video meetings.

A summary (emotions removed)...

  • Know the basics of the tool you use (on/off camera and audio buttons, share screen function, chat, sound levels, etc.) before joining a meeting.
  • Turn on your camera if it’s a video call.
  • Stay attentive to muting and unmuting your microphone as appropriate.
  • Avoid using distracting backgrounds.
  • Don’t eat unless it’s part of the agenda.
  • Minimize the chances of pets and kids running into view.

Everything else was standard for in-person meetings…

  • Be prepared, on time, and engaged.
  • Respect others. (So much here!)
  • Smile here and there.
  • Avoid doing other things when someone else is talking.
  • Do your part to keep the meeting on track.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Don’t sit in a bed. (I’ve never seen someone do this in a conference room. Might be funny.)

A few more thoughts on remote meetings given my experience speaking with different types of groups with different experiences, different setups, and different platforms…

  • Optimize your lighting. Ideally, your light source should be in front of you to illuminate your face. A window behind you will negatively affect the lighting.
  • Look directly at the camera from time-to-time rather than only at the people on your screen. Give people the feeling you're looking at them just as you would if you were physically in front of them. (You look at people in the eyes when you talk, right?)
  • Raise your camera/computer to your eye-level. You’ll look better. It's as simple as some books or a box under your computer.
  • Unless you're in incredible shape, you don’t want to watch someone talk from a phone or tablet in your lap with your camera on. Trust me. (I hope that made you laugh.)
  • Consider an external microphone to improve your sound quality. It can make a big difference.

Offload the sometimes touchy problem of sharing these points with people and send them to this page. ("Some good reminders to improve our remote meetings.")


Almost 25 years ago, I remember talking with my father about these beautiful things called email and the Internet. At the time, he wasn't as excited about them as I was and I remember saying to him, "Dad, these things aren't going away. You want to start getting good with them."

I've got the same feeling now about connecting with others through video.

Over the last week or so, I shared some of the thoughts above with people I know at all levels of different types of organizations. Sometimes I got push back on the points. ("I don't want to have my camera on all the time and have to be concerned with how I look." "I don't want to have to be 'on' in every meeting." "I don't have any other space than my bedroom." "It's very difficult to control my pets/kids.")

I understand the sentiment and truth behind all of these responses. Even so, why not choose to be attentive (mindful of the comfort of others) and do what you can to make the experience better for everyone?

Oh, and...

If you're leading the meeting, ask yourself "What's our goal for this time?" and share the answer at the start of your meeting. It can help frame things for other people and improve expectations and focus.

Need something to add a little inspiration to your meeting? We've got a few downloadable ideas you can use.

Real world...

Here's a picture of my setup while remotely reading a book to my sister's kindergarten students. 

When I do my keynote or drop-in sessions for companies and organizations, I use an external mic on a stand just out of view of the camera and use a box to raise the computer a bit more so the camera is around eye level. Most people don't need the two stage lights you see in the picture. There are single and ring lights that should do the job. If it's a sunny day outside, I don't need the lights at all.


Want to talk through ideas on how to use our messages and ideas with your team?

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We're real people and we'd love to hear from you.

To reach Sam (author of this post and the books we publish), email him directly or call him at 804-762-4500 ext. 212. Want him to speak at your upcoming meeting or event (remote or in-person)?

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