Let’s face it. Meetings are not fun—and most of us get wrapped into going to or being on meeting calls about meetings which is never fun. In my coaching business, when a business owner asks me to run a meeting or observe a meeting, I’m always incorporating or looking for the same criteria in each meeting. These strategies work well for weekly meetings or meetings that have a recurring frequency.
The meeting should be 45 minutes or less. I read somewhere that the average adult attention span is 45 minutes. Why oh why would you want to hold people captive past their physical capabilities? And we see it right? The yawns, the gaze and daze, the shear un-productivity of anything past 45 minutes. Sometimes we think we can’t control the length of our meetings because of the cast of characters that elongate the time we have together, right? WRONG! Even if you have Sally Long Wind at the helm or Chrissy the questioner or even Peter the personal story teller, we can control it. Two tactics that work well for maintaining the time of your meeting are:
Parking Lot: I use this all the time in my group sessions. It’s fun and effective. Empower the whole group to yell the word “Parking Lot” when someone is getting off topic. Introduce it at the beginning of the meeting, “Ok all, we are going to follow the agenda today. If we are going down a brain trail to nowhere or need to deep dive into topics someone yell Parking Lot, and we’ll table that for offline OR another meeting.” Don’t be afraid to be the first to yell parking lot and positively encourage someone who uses it. Then, follow up with the person who got “Parking Lotted” after and say “Did you want to talk further about XYZ, or does this topic need more exploring” It doesn’t mean that what that person is saying isn’t important. It just means that this particular meeting is not the time to discuss that issue.
Designate a Timekeeper: At the beginning of the meeting ask for a volunteer. Tell the group the meeting will be no more than 45 minutes. Ask the timekeeper to give a 25 minute and a 35 minute warning. Start wrapping it up at the 35 minute mark. This shows that you respect everyone’s time and that you are serious about the agenda and productivity of the meeting. You’re there to accomplish something, not to dilly dally.
Device Free Zone:
This one is tough because everyone is so tied to their devices but it does work. We want everyone to be focused on the topic in the meeting and connecting with each other. If you are not the presenter or the notetaker there is no need for your laptop at the meeting. The purpose of most meetings is to engage new ideas, make decisions and be productive. There is no way you’ll be productive when you’re half interested in the meeting and the other half if on your inbox, your next meeting or Will Smith’s Insta Page.
If you decide to implement this you need to adhere to it yourself. The only exception to this is if it’s within your company culture to take notes on your phone, laptop or tablet. There are so many great apps out there for this right now, but, this can be a slippery slope because those alerts that pop up while you’re taking notes can be distracting. Try it without a device for a meeting and see if everyone can live without note taking on devices. You might just create something amazing.
Have An Agenda:
Write an agenda and send it out before the meeting. If you set the meeting up in advance and you have the agenda in advance you can copy/paste it in the body of the calendar appointment. That way, people can come prepared with their own topics aligned with your agenda topics. Print a copy of the agenda for each person and have them on the table when people get to the meeting OR email it within 24 Hours of the meeting so everyone can follow along and/or make notes.
Start the meeting on a positive note: When I run meetings for my clients, I always start with “Positive Focus”. We go around the table and say one positive thing. It can be personal or professional. It’s just one sentence, it’s not a diatribe, and it’s quick. This sets the tone for a fun/positive meeting and opens people’s minds up.
Have a Tip of the Week or Month or Day: If people go to a meeting, spend their time there, and leave with no enrichment, no value, you’ve not only wasted their time by being there, you’ve given them nothing. In our sales coaching I always have a ‘Sales Tip of The Week”. It can be short, give an example, ask how others can or have applied it, or how they see themselves applying it in their day to day, and then move on. This opens up dialogue and further inspires creativity. If you’re not in sales, it can be operations tip of the day or assembly line tip of the day. It’s good for other people within your company to learn the inner workings of other departments as it could positively impact them on a daily basis in how they run their respective business lines.
Meetings don’t have to suck. Stay positive. Encourage laughter. Let the good vibes flow through the meeting and allow the energy to stay upbeat. During this Covid 19 nonsense I’ve been asking all my clients “What’s something that made you laugh this week?” instead of asking “How are you today?” Right now everyone is stressed, bored, busy, pivoting your business, trying not to lay people off, trying not to gain the Covid 15, homeschooling kids and taking the dog on endless walks, spending more money than ever before at the grocery and you’re hoarding flour and face masks. We get it. We’re all doing about the same right now. Differentiate yourself by asking “What made you laugh today?” You can swap that out with the Positive Focus to begin the meeting if you want to create levity in a very intense moment we’re all having.
Collaborate and Engage:
People want to participate, contribute and feel significant. They don’t want to be talked at or lectured. Find ways to encourage contribution and collaboration in your meetings. Your next big idea could be from the intern or the baby boomer, but it’s up to you to facilitate an environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing.
Below is a “Sample Agenda” from some of my coaching meetings:
Positive Focus: (round the room, 1 positive thing)
Top Sales from previous week: (top 3) how did they do it? (praise the top and have them share story)
What’s On Tap: (round the room by department or individual—top priority for the upcoming week, how they will tackle)
Sales Tip of the Week: (pick something relevant, give examples/stories, ask how it has or can be applied to current open business)
What Keeps You Up at Night? (opportunity for anyone to ask for help if need it)
Wrap Up: (close with a quote or an action step or take away)
In some instances, the 45 minute power packed fun meeting may not work for meetings like all day retreats, board meetings, etc. But, you can try it in those circumstances if you want to break up the monotony of a long meeting and see what magic happens.
If you have a meeting you’d like to book, contact me at:
If you want to chat more about running and effective and fun meeting through coaching, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org