Nine simple tips to make meetings more compelling

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In my previous posts, I described a common mistake that managers make in regards to meetings:  Calling mandatory meetings.  In subsequent posts, I’ve listed criteria what makes a meeting more compelling from the participants’ view, and how you can even measure and track your meeting quality based on this criteria.  In this post, provide nine baseline tips for making meetings more compelling, and helping you move your meetings up the meeting quality index.  

1)      Wait until there is a reason to call a meeting. 

Instead of scheduling a regular meeting, and then try to find a use for it as that meeting approaches,  wait until there is a reason for the meeting, and then call the meeting.  For large groups, sometimes it is difficult to find a meeting time at the last minute, so the way to work around this is to have a regular meeting scheduled (such as a quarterly meeting).  But if you don’t have immediate and obvious ideas for what will fill that time with, then cancel the meeting.  Even if you have paid a deposit on the room, you’ll still save money if you don’t have immediate ideas for what the meeting is for.

2)      Decide that meetings are the best format.

As described in a previous post, meetings are not always the best way to convey information.  If you only are conveying information, consider other channels.  A meeting is best when there is some required interactivity between the participants, and the information unfolds over the course of the meeting. 

3)      Don’t make it mandatory

There are many reasons to avoid mandatory meetings.  Instead, preview what the meeting is about and what is going to happen.  If it is a secret announcement that has to wait until the meeting, then say it is a set of announcements.  Of course the rumor mill will start to fly, but that makes the meeting all the more compelling to attend.  You won’t be able to stop speculation no matter what you do, but that will end once the meeting starts.  In the meeting, as the information unfolds, you’ll have a chance to address and dispel the rumors. 

4)      Keep the meeting short

Many managers want things to be summarized for them succinctly, but it doesn’t go the other way around when meetings occur, and managers fill up the time allotted.  Try to stay as brief as you expect your employees to be to you. 

5)      Assume that not everyone is going to be there. 

Even if the meeting is mandatory, a percentage of people will not attend.  Provide channels for the non-attendees to get the information.  Sending meeting notes, or creating a video for review later has been employed to resolve this problem.  However, consider another channel: Ask meeting participants to look around, identify who didn’t attend, and ask the attendees to convey the information to the non-attendees.  The meeting essentially extends to these conveyors of the meeting, and allows for the ongoing dynamic unfolding of the meeting to be played out beyond the meeting. 

6)      Try to make it interactive

The first rule for creating interactivity:  Try to make it interactive.  If you don’t even try, it will be unidirectional, and the meeting format isn’t even really necessary.   Keep reading this blog for tips on how to design better interaction in the meeting setting.  First tip: Ask people on your team for ways to make it more interactive.  They may give you some good ideas.  Don’t toil away on your own, or else you’ll fall into to the next mistake:

7)      Don’t be an entertainer (i.e., no stunts)

A common manager mistake is to turn attempt to turn into an entertainer for the duration or portion or a meeting.  I consider this a stunt at worse, and “style points” at best.  The larger the meeting, the more this seems to happen.    By definition, the manager is an amateur at being an entertainer, and likely not very good at it.  So beware.

8)      Make it work-related

An obvious point, but if it isn’t work-related, why are you calling the meeting?  Is it because you need to fill the meeting?  If the content and interaction is not specifically work-related, yet you still meet, this is a sure-fire indicator that the meeting sucks. 

9)      Track the results

In my previous post, I provide a specific way for all of the participants to weigh in on the perceived and actual value of the meeting.  This is something that gives you actionable data for whether your meeting was worth it or not.

Please feel free to add your own tips and experiences in the comments section!

For you aspiring management designers out there:  What tools have you created to make sure your managers make good decisions in calling and facilitating meetings?  What capability do your managers have in measuring the value of the meeting?

A leading indicator for team performance: Chart your meeting quality

Making it a mandatory meeting sabotages the meeting

More reasons mandatory meetings are bad for you and bad for your team

Criteria to generate a virtuous cycle for meetings

Why asking for loyalty discourages high performers

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


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