Death, Taxes, and Unproductive Meetings:

Why do most professionals assume that boring, wasteful meetings are an unavoidable cost of doing business?

During South by Southwest Trade Show for Interactive Media yesterday Kevin Hoffman of Happy Cog presented a most interesting session titled “Your Meetings Suck and It’s Your Fault.” This post highlight his main points and shares some of the books he suggests for fine tuning these 4 techniques.

The Problem with Most Meetings is that almost nobody is satisfied with how focused and meaningful their meetings are.

The most common Meeting problems:

COST: Are meetings even profitable?

When folks are getting billed by the hour expenses escalate rapidly. Consider how long it takes somebody to prepare for the meeting, adjust into it, and then adjust out of it into their next activity. All of this takes time.
Now multiply this out with how many people you have there in the meeting and suddenly what looked like an innocent meeting for 30 minutes to an hour becomes a fiscal black hole if nothing’s getting accomplished that moves a project forward.

TOO ABSTRACT:  Is meaningful focus ever possible?

  • Discussion tends to drift from subject to subject with no clear delineation.
  • Personal agendas are often in operation.

CALENDERING SOFTWARE: Can our productivity tools be working against us?

  • They typically default into 30 – 60 sessions. What if it only takes 7 minutes?

THEY MULTIPLY LIKE RABBITS: Is it possible to have just one meeting?

  • Typically one meeting leads to several more just like it!

Benefits to having meetings:

Gets us all on the same page

  • Nothing replaces face to face interaction where you can read body language.

Allow us to address problems

  • Makes ideas more clear
  • Defines things

What IS a Productive Meeting?

Hoffman says

“Meetings need to serve progress (creating decisions, idea, stuff that’s productive) and be
mutually beneficial (not all about one person).”

How is this done?

DESIGN the flow of your meetings instead of passively letting them happen.

4 things you can do to design better meetings

Assign Roles:
(from How to Make Meetings Work by Doyle & Strauss)

Have a Facilitator that does the following:

  • Coordinates the meeting
  • Manages the meeting’s progress
  • Stays neutral (does not contribute or evaluate content)
  • Guides the process
  • Provides tools
  • Maintains a neutral third-party stance

Have a recorder that does the following:

  • Creates a group memory
  • Records thoughts publicly (so people can see what they’re writing and comment if it’s inaccurate)
  • Keeps silent
  • Follows up afterwards

Tip: Use write boards in basecamp to record. Afterward people can edit their contributions (if they’re also in basecamp) and everybody gets a copy!

Have people who are simply Group Members:

  • Just there to participate
  • Refrain from trying to steer the agenda

Have a designated Leader:

  • Decides what the goals are
  • Designs the agenda for the meeting

Designing your meeting is the most powerful thing you can to do create meaningful, productive meetings. It can share awareness, make human connections, and enable participants to read the body language of those around them and better understand each other.

In Hoffman’s words:

If your meeting isn’t helping you do this then it’s a waste of time.


Are you currently designing your meetings or have any experiences you’d like to share? Have any strategies to add? Please scroll down and share!