We all have meetings.

  • Client meetings.
  • Status meetings.
  • Project meetings.
  • Brainstorming meetings.
  • Get-to-know-you meetings.

Let’s face it — many of the meetings we attend — well — suck. Why does this happen?

We have an agenda. Everyone is present. No one is distracted. Why is it when we’re surveyed, meetings rank at the bottom of any business experience?

Because most people don’t know how to run them. So here are 5 simple tips to make your meetings run efficiently:

1. Most meetings have this structure: Empathy & Action.

Empathy – It’s the first section of the meeting where one develops an understanding of the topic at hand or one gets to know the person they’re speaking with. Building trust or a bond with two or more people to help one another get the job done.

How: Make sure you allot time to clearly present why you’re meeting, what’s going to happen and what you expect the next steps will be. With one-on-one meetings, you don’t need to be so formal, but empathy and trust are paramount — make sure they happen during the first part of the meeting.

Action – Most meetings forget this one. They tend to blather on and never come to what the meeting is really about — taking action in one form or another. Many meetings are sometimes 99% talk and then at the last minute when everyone is getting up, an action step is mentioned — and it turns into a successive meeting to be scheduled in a few days. Oh joy.

How: Ensure you schedule enough time at the end to focus on who is doing what and delivering when. I know it’s hard to do it (asking people to do things) — but it’s really the hidden reason why you’re having the meeting in the first place — to explain what you are doing and getting their mental (and physical) buy-in.

2. Show up early. Stay late.
Be early and welcome all the attendees, get them excited about the topic and ally all their fears about another boring meeting. Stay late to answer any follow-up questions and deepen your relationships with any new attendees. Thank everyone profusely for their attendance.

3. Keep it SHORT. Move it along.
I’ve held five minute status meetings with my team where we all stand around a whiteboard. Get them in, says what needs to be said, and get them out. Your meeting does not need to conform to Outlook — it doesn’t need to be a full hour — end early.

4. Stick to an AGENDA.
Don’t let the meeting get off course. It’s okay if you meander a little bit to take care of a simple issue, but get back on course and keep the group focused. If you’re meeting one-on-one, have a simple mental agenda and let the person you’re meeting with know what you’d like to get out of the meeting: “Before we start, I’d like us to leave here with a clear understanding of how we can help one another build our respective businesses.”

5. Sometimes you don’t need to meet.
Don’t meet because you ‘have’ to or ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’. A simple conversation, phone call or email might suffice. The fewer meetings you host or attend not only open up your schedule, but also when you do host one, it’s an event. Don’t over-use meetings — they’re not that great to begin with.

What else do you do to make your meetings bearable?