Making meetings work

How can you make the best of meetings and use them to develop relationships that lead to positive outcomes?

Meetings... love them or hate them, we all end up in them at some point in our careers.

‘Meetings are an inevitable and inescapable part of business life,’ says Niki Fuchs, managing director of Office Space in Town. ‘In fact, according to a recent survey by American Express, a third of workers spend 1,200 hours in meetings every year. Given the amount of time that we dedicate to them, it is vital that they should be as productive as possible.’

The way to achieve this is to keep them as brief, focused and purposeful as possible.

‘They should be about making decisions, not about sharing information,’ says Sankalp Chaturvedi, associate professor (organisational behaviour and leadership) at Imperial College Business School. ‘The sharing of information can done by email or circulation through websites.’

Chaturvedi also believes it’s important that not too many people attend, and that everyone has a role to play and can comment on specific issues that impact upon the decision – the purpose of the meeting. Also, do your preparation.

‘The agenda should be circulated well in advance, with the goals of what is expected from the meeting being specific on the subjects and the allocation times’

‘The agenda mustn’t be too long, otherwise there’s the risk of spending too much time on the first items and the later ones get rushed. The agenda should be circulated well in advance, with the goals of what is expected from the meeting being specific on the subjects and the allocation times,’ adds Chaturvedi.

Put some thought into where you’re holding the meeting too, advises Fuchs.

‘The environment of the meeting can influence the tone, context and outcome of the meeting itself,’ she says. ‘Though it is tempting to choose a meeting space that is situated near to your office, it is important that the venue is easily accessible to all those attending.’

And try and avoid bland and uninspiring meeting rooms. Choose one that reflects the nature of your company; whether it is quirky and cool or sleek and corporate.

‘Unusual features in meeting rooms can also prove to be useful conversational ice-breakers,’ suggests Fuchs. Environmental factors such as acoustics can also be overlooked. ‘This is particularly important when conducting a meeting remotely – for example, via Skype or FaceTime.’


Too often technology hiccups derail otherwise productive meetings.

‘On average, 15 minutes of every meeting is spent fiddling with conference room technology, according to US tech research firm ZK Research,’ says Fuchs. So make sure your meeting room can support the latest technological advancements, such smart devices and high-speed internet. However, don’t be afraid to ban mobile devices if they are starting to distract people from the meeting in progress.

Finally, make sure the meeting ends with a closure, a set of decisions and the all-important ‘to do’ actions, urges Chaturvedi.

‘In summary, leaders need to be mindful of the task, involve critical individuals, make members prepare in advance and end with a specific to-do list at the end of the meeting.’