How to Have Better Work Meetings

Jeff Merck

In the modern professional landscape, meetings serve as crucial platforms for collaboration and decision-making. However, not all meetings are created equal; their effectiveness often hinges on meticulous planning and strategic structuring. 

The rise of hybrid work has streamlined the ability to schedule back-to-back meetings. Yet Harvard research indicates that all those meetings negatively impact productivity. Workplace overload is out of control. 

According to a Clockwise survey, 61% of workers cannot go 30 minutes without being interrupted. In addition, 78% of workers feel their meeting schedule is out of control. That number goes up to 82% when it comes to people earlier in their careers. 

Meetings can be the birthplace of great ideas. But we have to admit that they can be a drag. And sometimes, it could have been an email. Here’s how to identify the common pitfalls of a bad meeting and essential strategies for running productive sessions that have clear goals and asks.

Meeting Effectiveness: Strategies for Success

Meetings, when conducted effectively, can be powerful tools for fostering collaboration, decision-making, and idea-sharing. So, why do poorly run meetings appear to be on the rise?

The Harvard study authors, Benjamin Laker, Vijay Pereira, Ashish Malik, and Lebene Soga theorize: “When we’re working remotely, we don’t have to travel between private meeting rooms. We can pretty much leave one meeting and log into another a minute later.”

To enhance meeting effectiveness, it’s best to balance strategic planning with empathy for yourself and your colleagues’ day:

Purposeful Planning

Initiate by defining the meeting's purpose and structuring a clear agenda aligned with the intended goals. Thoughtfully designed agendas ensure discussions contribute significantly to meeting objectives. You can even include the agenda in the meeting’s calendar invite or send out an email a couple of days ahead of the meeting — especially if you have an ask of attendees.

Selective Attendance

Don’t be someone’s unnecessary meeting. Invite only those participants whose contributions align directly with the meeting's goals. A selective approach ensures focused discussions.

Consider employee preferences for scheduling. Insights from the Clockwise survey showcase that 29% prefer Tuesdays and 25% favor Wednesdays for meetings. Moreover, nearly 80% prefer morning or pre-lunch meetings, while only 1% find evening meetings productive. 

Enhanced Engagement

Encourage active participation and redirect non-essential discussions to a "Parking Lot" for later consideration. Take notes, or ask for a volunteer to do so for easier follow-up. 

Structured Moderation

Set the tone for the meeting with a clear opening encompassing defined goals, and a structure. Consistency is key. Make it clear what is, and what isn’t appropriate for meetings. For example, the Clockwise survey found that unsurprisingly, being late is the biggest meeting taboo. Cell Phone usage and interrupting placed second and third, respectively.

Follow-Up and Evaluation

Record action items and follow up on responsibilities and deadlines post-meeting. Although asking for feedback can be scary, it aids in continuous improvement for future meetings. Try an anonymous feedback form to encourage participation.

Refraining from Unnecessary Meetings: Identifying Red Flags

Not all gatherings prove beneficial; identifying criteria that render a meeting unnecessary is vital for optimized time management.

In his 2004 book, Death by Meeting, Patrick Lecioni, president of the Table Group, a managerial consulting firm, writes that the modern meeting needs both structure and engagement. It highlights the problem of unproductive meetings and offers a framework comprising different meeting types with specific purposes, aiming to enhance team alignment and decision-making.

Ownership and Objectives

If there's ambiguity regarding who owns the meeting or a lack of clear objectives, reconsider the necessity of the meeting. Your colleagues will be grateful for more heads-down time to get work done. 

Lack of Clear Agendas

Meetings without clear agendas often lead to aimless discussions. Insisting on a well-defined agenda validates the need for a meeting. If you find yourself frequently repeating yourself at a weekly meeting, consider making it bi-weekly or monthly.

Communication Efficiency

If you’re not opening the floor for collaboration, opt for precise means like emails over unnecessary in-person gatherings. 

Managerial Responsibilities

Some meetings serve as mere delegations of managerial duties under the guise of discussions. Again, keep this in email or consider utilizing digital content management software to help track the status of assignments.


Efficient meetings are pivotal in today's work culture, fostering collaboration, decision-making, and productivity. Employing strategic planning, discerning unnecessary gatherings, and leveraging insightful frameworks can transform meetings from mundane to impactful sessions that drive organizational success.

Meetings serve as avenues for collective progress, and understanding the strategies, pitfalls, and insights can shape these interactions into potent tools for achieving shared objectives. Clockwise’s survey insights revealed that well-planned meetings excite 64% of participants, surpassing perks like free lunch or working from home.

Through intentional planning and an understanding of participants' preferences and behaviors, meetings can become transformative elements within organizational ecosystems, driving productivity and fostering a culture of engagement and achievement.


Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business



Harvard Business Review

Jeff Merck, a Certified Certainty Adviser (CCA) and Executive Professional, with expertise spanning sales, technology, operations, real estate, and spiritual development. Jeff is driven by his mission to help others and make a global positive impact through his work.

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