by   Steve Roche


‘I’m sorry; Mr Smith can’t come to the phone right now. He is in a meeting’

How many times have you heard this?

Meetings are an inevitable fact of business life as much of an organisation’s business could not be done without them. Unfortunately they are often poorly run, and thus not nearly as useful or effective as they could be. Everyone in business has at some point come out of a meeting feeling that it was a waste of time.

Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.

J K Galbraith

There are, however, some simple things you can do to run better meetings.

So, what is a meeting anyway? (Other than an excuse for Mr Smith to refuse a phone call.)

For our purposes, let’s limit it to occasions that fulfil the following criteria...

  • an event that involves group communication for an outcome
  • organised in advance
  • up to around 15 people

Meetings can be used to do one or more of the following

  • Inform yourself or others
  • Share experience
  • Obtain information from others
  • Discuss (even argue) over a point of view
  • Properly and openly consider an issue
  • Reach consensus
  • Coordinate understanding
  • Evaluate proposals or reports
  • Come up with new ideas
  • Solve a problem
  • Air a grievance
  • Give or receive advice

When the meeting

  • gets bigger, with more people
  • is centred around group brainstorming
  • takes a half day or more time
  • has team building outcomes
  • is to look in detail at different proposals
  • is to thrash out a new procedure
  • has a training dimension
  • has some legal standing such as an AGM

then you are talking about a workshop or an event that requires someone to act as a formal facilitator. There is a separate topic on Facilitation which also covers when you would take the step to get in an external facilitator for your meeting.

Nevertheless, always bear in mind that the success or failure of a meeting largely depends on the quality of the facilitation, whether this is done by the chairperson on a formal basis or informally by a group member.


If someone is not running the meetings, they will run you.