Meetings: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

OK, I admit it — I hate attending most meetings.

Why?  Because in over 30 years of meetings, I’ve found that there is rarely a set agenda, attendees tend to come minimally prepared and there doesn’t seem to be a defined reason or objective to hold the meeting in the first place.  And most people feel that the meeting takes them away from what they’re supposed to be doing.

Meetings shouldn’t be a necessary evil.  Meetings (either face-to-face or via teleconference or webcasts) can be a great way to brainstorm, keep everybody apprised of what’s going on and monitor progress toward goals.  Just like I believe that we need to find a new way to work, I also believe that we need to find a new way to meet.  So I’ve created my Top 5 list of what I believe makes a great meeting.

#1:  Respect people’s time.  Start when you’re say you’ll start and end when you say you’ll finish.  It’s amazing how time limits help focus attention on the real reason why you’re meeting.

#2:  Do the preliminary work.  When I launched Tri-State SHRM (a local chapter of the Society of Human Resources Management), I had all the Board members submit a 1-page maximum summary of each of their committee’s goals and the progress that they made on those goals in the previous month – and they emailed it to all the members 2 days before the meeting.  One page of bullet points.  Not only was it easy to pull together, but it was also easy for Board members to read – which means that they actually reviewed it before the meeting.

#3:  Don’t rehash what everybody already knows.  Just like it’s bad practice to simply read a PowerPoint slide to an audience, it’s equally bad practice (and, quite frankly, rather insulting) to read your report verbatim in a meeting.  Focus on the highlights.  Consolidate similar activities into one statement; for example, if all the goals have been met on 2 projects, just say that.  Keep it simple.

#4:  Don’t confuse apples and oranges – make the reason for the meeting clear.  Some meetings are progress meetings that summarize what has been accomplished on key projects.  These are the quick status updates – so keep them short.  But before you can have the status updates that focus on efficiency, you have to have a brainstorming and idea building session that determines whether these projects are needed in the first place – in other words, you also have to focus on effectiveness.  Since ideas take time, these can be longer.  The trick is not to confuse these two very different types of meetings.  At Tri-State SHRM, we had a quarterly idea session that was face-to-face (usually over breakfast or lunch – which was great for teambuilding, by the way) that was supplemented with monthly status updates via teleconferences in-between.

#5:  Everybody doesn’t have to be at every meeting.  Only invite those people to the meeting who have something substantial to contribute or will be affected by the results.  I was once asked to drive 5 hours to attend an all-day meeting – where my “contribution” was a 10-minute PowerPoint.  I refused to attend and instead was conference called into the meeting.  Since all the attendees already had my PowerPoint handout, I simply needed to summarize and answer any questions that they might have.  Not only would it have been costly to the client to have me attend in person, but it was also a waste of time, effectiveness and efficiency.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

2 thoughts on “Meetings: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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