Sick of meetings that waste your time?  Read this!

Making meetings work – 11 tips to make yours better

Meetings are a necessary part of running a successful business. Even part of your life outside of work involves meetings – with a contractor, your attorney, your child’s teachers, sports team meetings, and so many more. Good meetings, regardless of business or personal, help those involved stay on schedule, provide a check-in for progress, and strengthen connections among team members. Bad meetings can be draining and frustrating and become the least favorite part of your day. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

Whether your meetings are in face-to-face, virtual Zoom or Teams meetings, PTA meetings, your kids’ sports team, meetings with contractors at your home you can use the meeting tips I’m about to present to help take your meetings from dread to full-ahead!

Tip #1 – Do you need the meeting? 

Sure, you need to communicate some information about a project to your team or your contractor. But consider the cost vs. the end goal. In the business realm, everyone in the meeting is getting paid whether they contribute to the discussion, are multi-tasking, or not paying attention at all. Think about the combined hourly cost of the meeting before scheduling everyone’s time. If you have an attorney drawing up your will and trust, your meeting will include chit chat and business. You’ll be charged for the chit chat time too. So considering the cost, could you accomplish what you need in an email, IM or text message?  If so, save everyone’s time and your money and go that route.

Tip #2 – Start on time.

This seems kind of obvious, but in today’s busy world, we’re all juggling so many things at both work and home. At work, you may have five, 10 or 20 projects of various scope with wide-ranging deadlines. At home, you have kids to take to soccer practice, grocery shopping, birthday parties, dinner engagements, that contractor remodeling your bathroom. Now consider that the people you’ve invited to your meeting also have five, 10 or 20 projects. Your contractor has other clients he’s working with. If you schedule a meeting, don’t be late. It shows a lack of respect for other people’s time.

On the flip side, if you’re waiting on your meeting organizer and after 10 minutes they haven’t shown up or given the team a heads up as to when they’ll be there, abandon ship. Even if you’re waiting for an executive. Everyone deserves respect for their time.

Tip #3 – The first two minutes are golden

While we want to be efficient with our meetings, we also want to build rapport. It’s okay to take the first two minutes to chat – How was your vacation? What’s the weather like in Chicago? How is your new puppy? All those things are great and help you connect to your teammates and peers. I, personally, use the first two minutes to greet every single person who is in my meetings by name, no matter what. I use those first two minutes while people are kind of straggling in to do that one-on-one greeting. But be careful to keep an eye on the clock. If personal conversation goes beyond two minutes, you need to jump in and get the meeting on track.

Tip #3 ½ – Silence is NOT golden

What I mean by this is don’t be that person who runs a Zoom or Teams call where all the participants just dial in, mute themselves and wait for someone else to speak. If it was an in-person meeting, you would greet the people in the room and make idle chit chat while waiting for the meeting to officially start. You should approach virtual meetings the same way. So, if you set the precedent of using the first two minutes to greet everyone and chat about safe, personal things, people will feel more comfortable joining the call and chatting with each other while everyone joins.

Tip #4 – Stick with a format.

If you have a reoccurring meeting, say every Tuesday with your team, use the same format, go through the same things in the same order every time. I find it helps with organization for the person who’s delivering the meeting as well as the attendees of the meeting.

Tip #5 – On camera or not?

This is a bit of a tough one. I, personally, don’t have a strong preference for one or the other. If as the organizer, you feel seeing people’s faces in a Zoom or Teams meeting is beneficial to that call, you should ask the participants to go on camera. Don’t shame them into it by just appearing yourself and waiting. As an attendee, just ask also works. If you don’t like going on camera, ask the organizer if it’s important to be seen on camera. But if they say yes, then be prepared to go on camera.

Also, as an organizer, consider your audience. If you have a global audience, you might have people just starting their day while others are right in the middle of their productivity, and still others are winding down for the evening. So consider how the evening person might feel after a long day of concentrating and maybe even being on camera.  I would really recommend those types of meetings default to each member’s personal preference. 

Tip #6 – Don’t cancel at the last minute.

This goes with the theme of respecting people’s time. It’s so frustrating to arrange your day to attend a certain meeting. Maybe it’s the first or last one of your day. So you’ve planned some other personal or business activities around this meeting. Then at the last minute the organizer cancels. Not cool. And if you scheduled a Friday afternoon meeting and cancel it, last minute or even any less than two hours advance notice – you suck. 

As a meeting organizer, take a few minutes every Monday to check your calendar and cancel any meetings that are no longer needed.

Bonus Tip – For managers and executives

If you hold one-on-one meetings with direct reports and you consistently cancel these meetings, you’re making your team uncomfortable. Repeated cancellations, and especially cancelling without explanation, make your direct reports unsure of their value to the team and makes them wonder what’s happening. So, if you are scheduling one-on-one meetings with direct reports, keep those as a priority.

Tip #7 – Call out a person’s name before expecting a response

Don’t spring questions on people without giving them a heads up. Call out the person’s name before you’re expecting them to respond. For example, we often tend to ask “We have all these statistics about how much all this is going to cost the organization, and I know that we’ve been working through all these numbers. Noah, can you tell me more about that?” A better approach is to simply put Noah’s name at the beginning of your statement, “Noah, we have all these numbers that we’ve been working through….” By doing this, you’re alerting Noah and he’ll be ready to respond to your question. And your meeting will flow so much more smoothly.

Tip # 8 – Hold people accountable

If someone commits to completing a certain task or step by a given date, ask them the status at each meeting and, of course, on the due date. Without firm dates and documented commitments to those dates, your project will meander and will likely end up falling behind schedule. If they said that they were going to do something by x date, then ask them the status. If they are behind schedule, ask them how they will make up the time. This is applicable to personal meetings with your contractor, your attorney, etc. They need to be held accountable for the schedules they commit to as well.

As for setting due dates, people give themselves a more aggressive deadline than you would. So let them choose a date as long as it aligns with your project timeline. If they have set their own deadline, they are more likely to take ownership of meeting it.

Tip #9 – Assume people are multitasking

We all know that there are all sorts of distractions during virtual meetings. Whether it’s incoming emails and texts, driving, even laundry, just assume people are multitasking. Take advantage of the immediacy of the meeting and ask someone to take care of something while they are in front of their computer. “Maria, why don’t you just go ahead and send that to Joe now?” By doing this, you’ve eliminated the need for an action item to be addressed after the meeting. Also, don’t wait until the end of the call. When the topic is being discussed, toss out that action item to the appropriate team member.  Take advantage of the tendency to multitask and have them work on your stuff during the meeting. 

Tip #10 – Celebrate successes

I love to tell people that the work they’re doing matters because you know what? I want people to tell me that. So, I make sure to recognize people by name in my meetings for the great work they’re doing. People want to feel like they are making a difference, like they matter to you. We can be grateful at work in addition to our personal life. So, in work and in your personal life, make sure people know that you’re grateful for their work, their quality of work, and how they show up for you.

Tip #11 – Don’t be a jerk.

How many phone calls or meetings do you absolutely dread because the person running the meeting is dull, dry, or just a straight-up jerk? Those are the worst. You don’t have to be falsely cheerful and silly. But you don’t need to be a dictator in your meetings. In fact, that will end up being counterproductive. Just be kind. You will foster so much more teamwork and camaraderie by being genuinely nice.

Bonus tip – Have fun! Share a dad joke, a lame pun. People want to smile and laugh. And if you include laughter in your meetings, people will want to come to your meetings and they’ll be more engaged. 

ThirtyFiveSixtyFour
ThirtyFiveSixtyFour
People Dread Meetings: 11 Ways to Make Yours Better
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  • Karen Stones

    Show host Karen Stones is the creative heart of ThirtyFiveSixtyFour. Born in 1979, Karen is a child of Generation X. As a podcast enthusiast, she noticed a major void in content catering to listeners her age. Karen found existing productions were either niche, evangelized negative perspectives on aging, or hosted by a well-meaning young adult who lacked the wisdom and life experience to provide meaningful insight. Thus, ThirtyFiveSixtyFour was born. The philosophy behind ThirtyFiveSixtyFour stands in stark contrast to the conventional midlife crisis narrative, advocating instead for midlife to be seen as a time of confidence, reinvention, growth, reflection, exploration and renewal.

    Karen has over twenty years of mass communication and marketing expertise. Her journey in media started early, as she interned for notable figures like Larry Morgan and Ryan Seacrest at the Los Angeles FM radio station STAR 98.7. During her university years Karen served as a disc jockey for the on-campus, student-run radio station. Following a successful career in the corporate world, she took the entrepreneurial plunge, founding 13 Jacks Marketing Agency in 2014. The agency currently oversees multimillion-dollar projects including global product launches, international events, specialized social media and advertising campaigns. Beyond her agency pursuits, Karen extends her expertise to coaching executives seeking to enhance their business strategies and personal growth. Based in Orange County, California, Karen is a dedicated mother to three and an outdoor enthusiast.

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About the Author

Show host Karen Stones is the creative heart of ThirtyFiveSixtyFour. Born in 1979, Karen is a child of Generation X. As a podcast enthusiast, she noticed a major void in content catering to listeners her age. Karen found existing productions were either niche, evangelized negative perspectives on aging, or hosted by a well-meaning young adult who lacked the wisdom and life experience to provide meaningful insight. Thus, ThirtyFiveSixtyFour was born. The philosophy behind ThirtyFiveSixtyFour stands in stark contrast to the conventional midlife crisis narrative, advocating instead for midlife to be seen as a time of confidence, reinvention, growth, reflection, exploration and renewal.

Karen has over twenty years of mass communication and marketing expertise. Her journey in media started early, as she interned for notable figures like Larry Morgan and Ryan Seacrest at the Los Angeles FM radio station STAR 98.7. During her university years Karen served as a disc jockey for the on-campus, student-run radio station. Following a successful career in the corporate world, she took the entrepreneurial plunge, founding 13 Jacks Marketing Agency in 2014. The agency currently oversees multimillion-dollar projects including global product launches, international events, specialized social media and advertising campaigns. Beyond her agency pursuits, Karen extends her expertise to coaching executives seeking to enhance their business strategies and personal growth. Based in Orange County, California, Karen is a dedicated mother to three and an outdoor enthusiast.