2 July 2012


Those who have worked with me for any length of time will know that nobody's heart sinks faster than mine when a meeting is threatened. I don't like negative thinking about work but past experience has taught me that nothing can be as soul destroying as hours spent trapped in a room inching through an agenda the way a slug eats a lettuce leaf...

Ideas factory or torture chamber?

In the spirit of reflection and progress, I have often pondered the key to successful meetings. I have read articles on the subject and considered practical rules (meeting conducted standing up?). Unfortunately I am not in a position to control most of the meetings I have to go to so I'm not able to implement anything too radical (this is probably good thing for those involved!)

Last week however I had at least 2 meetings which were an absolute joy. One of which was close to 2 1/2 hours long. So what were the reasons for their success?
  1. Very nice people: everyone at the meetings was considerate, sensible, good humoured and generous. There was no talking for talking's sake, no weird tensions or disputes going on, everyone was working to a common goal.
  2. The purpose of the meetings were clearly defined and, in my opinion, extremely important. We knew what we were there to do and, just as importantly, when to stop.
  3. The surroundings were comfortable - light, airy, good chairs. Trivial, but it helps!
  4. Nobody was fiddling with phones or laptops even though we had them there, we were all focussed and engaged. This was partly because everyone's comments were important and constantly being requested.
  5. We all cared about what we were there for. 
  6. Not everyone knew everyone else at the beginning but I detected a sense of satisfaction as the meeting progressed and we realised we were on the same wavelength.
  7. There was a feeling of progress and accomplishment at the end (relating back to point 2).
Obviously not all meetings can be like this but some of the above are factors that can be controlled. Regular meetings - progress reports, group meetings etc. - often lack the sense of purpose. They've been going for so long that the real reasons for being there (making sure everyone is up to date, improving our service, sharing ideas and information) are often not articulated. This could be linked to No.5 - if you restricted a meeting to those who really wanted to be there and articulated the reason for the meeting properly, this could be a huge improvement! Of course, if you choose not attend a meeting you can't complain if you don't like the outcomes.... ;o)

My quest for the perfect meeting formula goes on - in the hope that one day if I'm the one calling a meeting I can make it bearable. If anyone else has thoughts on this, or how to turnaround a meeting from hell, I'd welcome them!


  1. I find that meetings held to discuss a particular issue or subject are usually more enjoyable and productive than regular meetings. The main reasons are because the purpose of the meeting is clear and there is an outcome at the end (hopefully). I tend to be woefully underprepared for regular meetings - but now have learnt to organise myself thanks to CPD23!

  2. 'Task and finish' rather than 'rumble on endlessly'...