There is so much wrong with meetings right now, and according to a recent article in HBR, there are 55 million of them happening every single day! The other notable item in that article – at least half of them do not accomplish anything! 

My clients can’t stop talking about the pain and stress meetings are causing in their lives. 

In a recent call, Joe (name changed because it is every single one of us!), told me about the fact he had so many meetings scheduled in his calendar, that he couldn’t get anything done. The stress of it all was affecting every part of his job and life. He felt like he was running around like a chicken – frantic and disorganized – and not getting anything actually done. 

I’m feeling stressed just recounting this!

Joe wanted to block time for important strategic projects, but an overload of meetings would just pop into his calendar. We looked closely at his schedule during our recent coaching session – some of these meetings weren’t actually for him, they were informative. Some meetings were meant for someone else on his team, but he was invited too. A few were recurring meetings that were probably not relevant any more. Still others, he didn’t know what they were about… 

Here are some of the meeting pains Joe (and you!) are probably experiencing:

  • Lack of Purpose: Meetings without a clear purpose or agenda can feel aimless and unproductive. My clients wonder why they’re there or what they’re supposed to be doing! 
  • Too Long or Poorly Timed: When meetings drag on or if they’re scheduled during times that disrupt work, they can be frustrating and exhausting. How about when you have multiple meetings like this scheduled right on top of each other?
  • Too many people: Including too many invitees can dilute the effectiveness of the discussion. Have you been invited to a meeting with a million people so you check out because the discussion does not involve you? Numbers do not promote engagement!
  • Passivity: Meetings where only one or a couple of people talk while everyone else observes can feel unengaging and inefficient. This format doesn’t extract the potential of the group for brainstorming and collaborative problem-solving. Also, again, boring.
  • Repetition and Redundancy: Meetings that cover the same ground repeatedly, without new information or progress, can become tedious and unproductive.Even I can’t hold back an eye roll here.
  • Lack of Outcome and Follow-Up: If there’s no clear summary of decisions made or actions to be taken post meeting, participants may feel that their time was wasted. If nothing concrete comes out of the session, did it really happen?

So what to do about it? A lot of this can feel out of your control, but if you evaluate and put some structure around the meetings you are invited to and the meetings you host, you can begin to gain some control, and this is at the heart of reducing stress.

Here are some strategies that can make meetings more effective:

  1. Make sure there are Clear Objectives: Define a clear purpose for each meeting. What exactly needs to be achieved? Communicate this goal in advance and at the top of the meeting. This helps keep the meeting focused and gives participants a clear understanding of why they are there and what needs to get done.
  2. Require Structured Agendas: Develop and distribute a timed agenda before the meeting. This helps manage expectations and keeps the meeting on track. Make sure to allocate time for discussion as well as decision-making. If you are invited to a meeting without an agenda, push back to get one.
  3. Right Participants: Invite only those who are necessary. This reduces the crowd and ensures that everyone present has a role or a stake in what happens there. This can also make the meeting more dynamic and engaging.
  4. Utilize Engagement Techniques: My favorite! Use facilitation techniques to encourage participation from everyone. This can include rotational sharing, small break-out groups, or interactive tools like polls and whiteboards. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to contribute, particularly those who might usually be quieter.
  5. Employ Time Management: Keep meetings as brief and direct as possible. Start on time and end on time. If additional discussion is necessary, schedule follow-up sessions or take it offline in small groups.
  6. Establish Follow-Up Actions: At the end of the meeting, summarize key decisions and assign clear action items, including who is responsible and the deadlines. Send these out in an email to reinforce commitments and timelines.
  7. Give your meetings Regular Reviews: Periodically review the effectiveness of meetings. Solicit feedback from participants on what is working and what isn’t. Adjust strategies as needed to improve efficiency and engagement.

Whether you’re implementing these strategies in meetings you lead or using them to assess and support meetings on your calendar, you have the power to transform gatherings. I believe in you! You can turn meetings from often dreaded, unproductive necessities into powerful tools for collaboration and decision-making!

What action will you take to align your meetings with business objectives, enhance participation, produce outcomes, and make your precious time count? Let us know in the comments below or email me at

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