Share this content

Unproductive meetings

How to make meetings more productive (or leave the ones that aren't)?

Didn't find your answer?

Tech titan and Mars-botherer Elon Musk caused a bit of a storm a few weeks ago by revealing he tells his employees to walk out of unproductive meetings.

While some enjoy the cut and thrust of the meeting room environment, others find them a difficult, often unproductive talking shop.

Has anyone found a way to make their meetings more productive?

Or for those of you that have to attend regular meetings and wish you didn't, what are your tactics for getting out of them? Is it the simple walkout that Mr Musk advises? Or maybe you set your phone alarm to go off so you can answer 'an important call'? Or do you just sit there quietly seething?

Maybe we should arrange a meeting to discuss this?

Replies (10)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By WhichTyler
03rd May 2018 14:36

Boring stuff like sending agendas (with names next to items), action points from last meeting (ditto names), any pre-reading in plenty of time then being clear about what the meeting is trying to achieve, then send minutes/action points immediately afterwards....

Thanks (1)
By andy.partridge
03rd May 2018 15:12

Basic rules
1. Never have AOB on the agenda.
2. Prohibit discussions that only affect the person raising the issue.
3. Walking out will be treated as an offer to resign and will be accepted.

Thanks (2)
By Justin Bryant
03rd May 2018 15:26

EM is not the 1st famous person to point this out. See below my previous comments from this link:

"The best way by far to avoid wasting time is to, as far as possible, avoid business meetings. I recall this was the view of Felix Dennis and also George Harrison, made famous in the Wings song Band on the Run in the lines "If I ever get out of here...If I ever get out of here (If we ever get out of here)", being in reference to the Beatles' interminable business meetings."

Thanks (2)
By I'msorryIhaven'taclue
03rd May 2018 15:28

We have regular health and safety meetings, along with the other firms in our block, hosted by our safety-conscious landlord.

Last month's meeting involved a tedious lecture on how to use the new oxygen machine in the foyer. Guess what? You put the mask over your wilting patient's face and press a button. Who's have thought? Our salesman presenter was very reticent about placing your victim in the recovery position or checking for signs of a stroke - apparently one whiff of oxygen and they'll be up and bouncing!

My favourite such health and safety meeting was the one in which we discussed the wisdom of assembling in the vicinity of the car park barrier during our weekly fire drills. A van had driven past, causing the barrier to raise and later lower itself onto the new arrivals milling beneath it. Rather than move the fire assembly point, security now raise the barrier permanently during fire drills (always assuming the security guy isn't at lunch or on a break or doing his rounds). It hadn't escaped my notice that, in the event of a real fire, assembling in the car park entrance isn't the wisest move with a fire engine about to hurtle through. Walk out of the meeting? I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Thanks (2)
Jennifer Adams
By Jennifer Adams
03rd May 2018 15:34

The secret is setting an agenda and sticking with it. There should always try to be someone who leads (such as a chairman).
Why was the meeting called in the first place?
By whose criteria is it being unproductive?
If you feel it is getting nowhere then try to say 'we are getting no where' and suggest that the meeting be wound up.
The ICSA have produced an excellent Guidance note headed "Specimen board meeting etiquette' (only available to ICSA members unfortunately but it might be obtainable elsewhere if you are interested... if you get my drift.
It says:
‘An effective board (meeting) should not necessarily be a comfortable place. Challenge, as well as teamwork, is an essential feature' and
'is therefore essential that boards conduct their meetings with a view to optimising the use of the time and intellectual capital of their members'.
Interestingly it also says:'do not attend the meeting if under the influence of any substances that will impair
your performance and contribution to the meeting'!

Thanks (2)
By Chris Maslin
03rd May 2018 15:58

I guess we hardly have any meetings. Where we do, it'll either be:
- potential new client,
- staff appraisal.

For both those I want the person to have as much time as they feel they need, and not to feel rushed.

I accept it'd be a bit different if it's a meeting dozens of people have to sit in on, many of which realistically don't need to be there.

Thanks (1)
By WhiteRose
03rd May 2018 22:26

A well thought out agenda helps. No AOB, and include suggested times against each item, so if there is only one item that is relevant to you then you only need to attend for that one item. Depends what the meeting is for - is it a decision-making body or a discussion forum. If the former then each agenda item should be ‘to agree....’ or ‘to decide...’

Thanks (1)
By Paul Scholes
03rd May 2018 23:09

It may sound antiquated but the most effective meetings I ever organised or attended were those with a chair person or facilitator, ie someone to keep discussions relevant and timely.

The best meeting I ever heard about was where one of my consultant clients was asked to attend a meeting of one of his clients to discuss his clashes with "management" as they mistakenly called themselves.

He walked in late carrying the biggest axe he could find in B&Q, propped it up in the corner behind him and said nothing. Nobody asked him anything so 5 minutes later he walked out, taking his axe with him.

Thanks (5)
By Mr_awol
04th May 2018 12:51

Depends on how many people are there and whether it is a client meeting or an internal staff or partners' meeting.

Client meetings are always productive. Guide them onto subject if they deviate. If they (not you) side-track then it's their own money they are wasting.

Staff meetings, it is up to the senior person in the roon to drive it.

Partners meetings, we normally have someone lead from the agenda. There is a bit of sidetracking but generally it's tolerated to a point. One good tactic (space depending) is to have the meeting in your office. That way you get a comfy seat and can check emails and maybe even get a small amount of work done (or surf AWeb) during the meeting - usually undetected.

Thanks (0)
Red Leader
By Red Leader
04th May 2018 18:16

A good chairperson is essential. It's quite a skill but appears to be fairly rare.

Thanks (1)
Share this content