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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Mar 24, 2023


Over the past few years meetings have become worse than ever. Here’s what meeting science teaches us about how to make meetings great.



Welcome to episode 179 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore making meetings great. 

The pandemic saw a rapid shift to working from home. This was associated with significant changes in meeting habits according to research by Microsoft and others, including:

  • 13% increase in the number of meetings

  • 14% increase in the number of people attending each meeting

  • More multitasking doing meetings with around 42% of people working on other things such as email

  • Shorter meetings but more likely to run over time

  • Meetings across a longer work day, particularly for managers

  • People having fewer meetings with their direct manager

Now, each of these are interesting in their own way, but the flow on impact of working remotely on work performance can be significant. For example:

  • 57% of people reported a reduction in their ability to brainstorm with colleagues

  • 32% reported a reduction in their opportunities to collaborate

  • 26% reported a decrease in opportunities to discuss dissenting positions

So the way we’re approaching meetings currently clearly isn’t working, and is only getting worse with the shift to online. Something needs to change. 

Fortunately there are people who specialise in researching how to make meetings better. Here are six rules for meetings from those who specialise in meeting science:

  1. Call a meeting with a clear purpose and only when necessary - not everything needs to be a meeting, so save meetings for two-way communication and collaboration

  2. Include only those people whose expertise and knowledge is required - virtual meetings allow us to easily invite far more people, but it’s important to ensure each person is there for a reason

  3. Prepare and follow an agenda - this should be distributed beforehand so people can prepare and maximise their time together

  4. Start the meeting on time - set a culture where meetings begin on time even if everyone hasn’t arrived

  5. Avoid distractions and multitasking - when meetings are purposeful and well run, you will see a drop in multitasking, particularly if you also shorten meetings

  6. Actively encourage everyone to participate, including after the meeting - given you have the right people in the room, make sure they all have a voice and opportunity to share

Try re-introducing these meeting disciplines to generate greater value from your meetings, and let me know how you go.



Collaboration and Meetings By Nancy Baym, Rachel Bergmann, Adam Coleman, Ricardo Reyna Fernandez, Sean Rintel, Abigail Sellen, Tiffany Smith Chapter 1 of The New Future of Work: Research from Microsoft into the Pandemic’s Impact on Work Practices, edited by Jaime Teevan, Brent Hecht, and Sonia Jaffe, 1st ed. Microsoft, 2021.