Did you know meetings can actually be productive? This is not fake news.

As leaders, it is up to us to ensure all the meetings within our organization are an efficient and effective use of staff time. Here are three steps to create the space, system and culture for productive meetings.

What's the problem?

Just like employee surveys provide insight into organizational issues, a targeted assessment of meetings provides valuable data to address issues. The issues with meetings vary widely.

For example, are there too many meetings that the sheer volume is wasting time? Are the meetings not productive because they are too structured or not structured enough? Or is it a system issue? In other words, do the available meeting spaces or technology tools not sufficiently address the needs of the participants?

There are so many ways each meeting can go wrong that an audit is essential in unwinding the issues and determining the possible solutions.

An observational assessment is the simplest way to get a picture of the meeting landscape in a small organization. Assign one or two employees to work together to tally all the meetings, categorize them and capture the details (attendees, agenda, timing, etc.) into a table.

For larger organizations, a designated employee should be assigned to work with IT and HR to create a simple survey — like Weight Watchers did that captures the immediate feedback of meeting participants.

One size does not fit all

Knowing the problems are great, it is important to understand that one solution will not address everything. Just like meetings can go wrong in so many ways, there are also so many different types of meetings that it would be counterproductive to force one meeting template on staff.

Instead, use the survey results to determine the best place to start to make the most immediate impact. Then create a simple road map reflecting the ultimate goal of the meeting culture and the path to get there.

For example, start by capturing the types of meetings that are taking place, then determine which should be kept, canceled or consolidated. From that list, have attendees work together to create a template for each type of meeting they attend. This information can then be compared to and aligned with best practices for different types of meetings to create a consistent meeting system.


Having the data reflecting the current meeting culture and a road map highlighting the path from there to a productive meeting system is extremely valuable. However, the key to ensuring everyone makes the trip is clear and repeated communication.

The goal to make meetings a consistently efficient and effective use of staff time must be conveyed in a way that reflects the unique culture of the organization. Does it make sense to host a lunch and crown meeting ambassadors to usher the successful change? Or is it more appropriate to convene a meeting, distribute a formal road map and post the meeting audit schedule?

Whatever the approach, it is up to us to lead the way in underscoring the value of meetings and providing the tools to ensure they are productive and reflect our organization's unique culture.