Why meetings suck your soul …

I think meetings should all come with a health warning:

“Meetings can seriously damage your purpose, passion, motivation and sense of accomplishment. Attend entirely at your own risk.”

Now I know this seems complete hyperbole and for effect (I can promise you it is not) but I really struggle to recollect a meeting where I felt better, more enthused and motivated coming out than I did going in. Taking things at their highest, it was no more than evens.

The main culprits:

  1. Legacy issues – meetings have always been conducted in a certain way and it is difficult to see how things can be done differently;
  2. Watching your back;
  3. Watching that you don’t upset too many people;
  4. Not saying what you really think;
  5. Lack of any meaningful progress (that hound-dog, resigned look is a good tell tale sign);
  6. Repetition of the issues;
  7. Lack of accountability;
  8. Too many hidden or unspoken agendas;
  9. No minutes;
  10. The timing always goes awry or it doesn’t suit enough of the people attending;
  11. The results both inside the meeting and what is actually achieved outside don’t warrant the massive investment of time;
  12. The feeling that I could just as well do this myself;
  13. Boredom;
  14. Wandering minds;
  15. Yawning;
  16. Looking at your watch;
  17. The pace is so slow you forget who is doing what or even what you are have been assigned to do;
  18. Is it that important to warrant you even being there;
  19. People leaving early or turning up late;
  20. The same people doing the talking ~ nothing wrong with that but you need to get EVERYONE to contribute;
  21. You are worried about the piles of work that you need to start, finish or find a home for;
  22. Your mobile is backing up with a stack of emails and you can’t resist taking a quick look even though you know everyone else isn’t;
  23. Interruptions;
  24. Being hungry; and
  25. Meetings procreate – one leads to another leads to another and so on.

Now if like me you are focused on getting results then why don’t you think of a paradigm shift and not a nuanced version of the meeting.


  • Don’t have meetings. The reality is that you could just as easily get a really tight group of people together and be iron-willed about the time and do everything by phone. Or you could, weather permitting, go for a stroll (assuming you are in the same building) and say that the meeting will last as long as it takes to walk twice round the block. Get out of the habit of going to a conference room – it’s dull. Oh sure there will be confidential issues and you will need to choose things carefully but the point is try and make it more of an ‘experience’.
  • Try to light things up with some pictures of what the outcome will look like. There are plenty of examples of other firms or companies that have done or are doing the same thing as you are attempting. A lot of meetings are focused on developing or growing your service lines or branding. Surely you can find a pictorial representation of your vision. I attended countless meetings where we talked about new markets but I would loved to have seen some pictures or even better videos of companies who operated in the chosen sector.
  • Or what about some nice cool music (try Melody Gardot or the Theivery Corporation). Now don’t get me wrong, I recognise that some meetings need a much more serious tone but not as many you think. I once remember thinking of playing Gloria Gaynor’s “I am what I am” but I chickened out. It was meant to be a metaphor for all the best bits of the BrandYou.
  • Try and set the scene with a story. Fuel everyone’s emotion. Don’t just race to complete the agenda.
  • Invite as few people that you need. Don’t though start dreaming up sub-committees.
  • Make sure that the agenda is more that a one line affair e.g. branding or marketing. What the hell does that mean? No write out a short narrative, no more than 100 words. But once you start on the agenda make sure you don’t go off piste or allow the conversation to drift elsewhere.
  • Have a big fat number posted nearby showing how much the meeting is costing the firm. Several thousand pounds I would wager. That should focus a few minds.
  • Make sure the meeting starts and finishes on time. Have the loudest bell you can find to signal the end.
  • Don’t have meetings just to brainstorm. Try to have developed your ideas so that the meeting is organised to solve a discreet issue e.g how can we grow X practice area in the next 12 months by 20%?
  • Make sure before you start that it is agreed who is doing what. No fudges and make sure the work is evenly shared out.
  • Don’t give all the crappy stuff to trainees.
  • Fill the room or wherever you are with some energy. I am not suggesting that everyone drinks copious amounts of coffee but make sure that you are animated, excited and committed to the process.
  • If you feel the meeting is going nowhere don’t be afraid to say so. You don’t have to use up the allotted time but make it clear why you are short-changing everyone otherwise they may not be that inspired to come back again.
  • Have a three strikes rule: if you are late or don’t turn up on three occasions in any given period then you forfeit the right to attend. Not as easy at it sounds but you need to make it clear the seriousness of what you embarking on.
  • Get out of the committee mindset.


I know that this will not be the first post you have read on meetings or at least been lectured on (sorry), but I sincerely believe that done right, a good meeting has the power to inspire everyone in your firm and not just be seen a virtuous activity where everybody plays by a set of moribund rules.

Keep pressing down on the issues and ask yourself if that meeting was as meaningful and productive as possible? Get some feedback from the group and act on it.

If you can revolutionise your meetings and achieve Rock Star status where everyone is inspired to attend, then there is a good chance that things will get done in short order but more than that you will start people talking about your department where magic happens.

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For more on developing profitable business, innovating in professional practice and implementing social media, subscribe to the RSS Feed of my Blog. Follow me on Twitter at @0neLife, or @Ju_Summerhayes connect to me on LinkedIn or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your practice, check out my coaching and consulting firm via LinkedIn, email me on juliansummerhayes@gmail.com or call me on 075888 15384.

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