4 ways to create meetings that don’t suck.


When you’re busy, meetings feel like a black hole of time and energy. They stop you getting on with what’s important. They’re a talking-shop. They’re draining. Frustrating.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. We think it’s all in the set up. That meetings can be fun. Energising. Short, punchy and effective. Here are some of our tips on making a lot out of just a little.

Create a purpose.

Honestly, how many meetings have you been to that actually did something that an email bulletin couldn’t have? We cringe at the brain-space (not to mention people-cost) lost through ‘updates’.

Create a proper purpose. A real goal that everyone understands. Succinct, measurable objectives. A timeline (and an endpoint, no more meetings that recurs for ∞). Use it to instil urgency and ownership.

Create a manifesto.

Kick off your first session by collaboratively honing your purpose. This way, it not only becomes a good meeting, it becomes a shared belief. It’s a great way to gain commitment. To create ownership. And to start building your manifesto. Here are some questions we ask ourselves every time we do this.

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • By when?
  • What is the purpose of each person in that room?
  • And what do they output?
  • How are you going to work together? How do you keep it punchy and valuable?
  • What are the rules of the game? (We like to build on ideas with Pixar’s ‘plussing’. You might also consider a phone stack. And kickstarting a no-excuses accountability culture like Steve Blank.)

Make it exclusive.

This one is controversial, but it works.

No replacements. No meeting minutes circulated. No excuses.

Make meetings consistent, but make sure that people can make it. Create an atmosphere of exclusivity, and you’ll ensure that your attendees make an effort. Not only to turn up but to contribute. Be present. We think it’s one of the best ways to maintain engagement and commitment.

Create an event, not a meeting.

Standing out is important in a sea of calendar invites. Can you make people look forward to the next session?

Make your meet count: no matter if it’s a new product development workshop or the monthly financial roundup. We find purpose and identity not only get the right people to your meetings, attendees are more present. They’re interested and excited to be there.

It’s not magic: it’s planning and consideration. Give it a catchy name. Consider an activity at the start (here are a few fun suggestions from IDEO). Ditch that agenda that everyone uses (especially the AOB). Consider using standup rules. Don’t get together to just discuss progress — that can be done on email or Slack. Set punchy ‘asks’ by demanding outputs not updates from attendees.

A few last words

I hope that’s given you a little inspiration that meetings can be fun. Energising and useful. That they can get people collaborating. Owning things. Creating bonds. Laughing. And most important, looking forward to that one invite in the diary where they get something really real done.

Let’s chat.

Drop me a line with your questions. Let’s grab coffee and a natter. Email me at jared@thinkplanthrive.com.

Jared Ruddy