Skip to main content
Business team at work
5 min read

Why I Hate Meetings And 7 Ways To Make Them Better

As a freelancer who has gone back to traditional employment, I have realised one of the most frustrating parts of returning to “office life” is not the lack of freedom. No, the most annoying part of the job is all the meetings!

When I started back in the corporate world I found that for every meeting I attended my to-do list would get longer. It took more time to get back into whatever task I was working on before the meeting. This wasn’t just irritating, it was costing the business I work for in productivity. 

Whilst I’m all for building connections and attending meetings that are necessary, it made me miss the meetings I had as a freelancer. There was a mutual understanding that time equals money when meeting with a customer. Both parties can ill afford much time away from the work that moves their business forwards, so the meetings were more productive.

So, whilst I couldn’t turn down the meetings I was expected to attend at work, I did try to adopt a few tactics from my freelance days with my own meetings. I adopted various tactics to make them better, and, where it was appropriate, try and make small changes to the ones other people had set.

Whilst it didn’t always work (some meetings have a mind of their own!) it has made me hate them a little less and helped them be much more productive.

If you’re bogged down in meeting overload, or just want to get more out of those you’re having (whether employed or self-employed) try some of these tactics:

 

1. Define the purpose

If a meeting doesn’t have a purpose, it’s in danger of going on for too long and you not getting out of it what you need. 

The best solution I’ve found to this is to set and circulate an agenda in advance and spell out the reason for holding the meeting. Try to limit the agenda to a maximum of three points of discussion. Any more and you’re at risk of veering off course.

It sounds rudimentary, but having an agenda isn’t that common but it will make a world of difference. If you’re attending someone else’s meeting without an agenda, ask for one.

 

2. Limit the frequency

Meeting overload is real. If it can be done over the phone or discussed in a short email chain then why wouldn’t you do that? Think about the reasons you’re having the meeting (see step one, above) before you have it. If there’s not a clear reason, think twice before you send out that calendar invite or accept an invitation.

Consciously keeping the frequency down will mean the meetings you do have are much more meaningful and productive. 

 

3. Keep it small

I’ve found that the more people that are invited and attend a meeting, the longer it goes on for. Everyone wants a chance to have their say, or have an opinion, which can be time-consuming. Try to get the vital people in the room and have them either bring concerns, opinions or ideas from others with them and share the notes and actions to the wider team afterwards. 

Try to get the vital people in the room and have them either bring concerns, opinions or ideas from others with them and share the notes and actions to the wider team afterwards.

4. Consider the location

Booking a meeting room when you book your meeting is just something you do, right? Wrong! It’s a habit that might need to be broken. 

I’ve found a change of scenery can be helpful in making sure regular meetings don’t become too formulaic or stuffy, and the physical change seems to alter people’s perception of the meeting – it feels new, and a little bit more interesting if it’s not in the same old boardroom in the office.

If you have the luxury of meeting rooms onsite, consider whether a breakout or communal space would work just as well or if not better. If you don’t have the luxury of meeting rooms, it could also bring your costs of hiring somewhere down. Is there a quiet spot in your favourite cafe that would work nicely, or a public space that allows business meetings? 

Keep your meeting locations interesting to keep your meetings interesting.

 

5. Rotate the chair

If you have group meetings with the same people on a regular basis, consider rotating who chairs it. I recently attended a meeting at another business who do this for their weekly team meeting. Every one of the regular 15 attendees gets the chance to chair, and when they do so not only set the agenda but also the style of the meeting. 

It gives everyone a chance to run a meeting their way which keeps it from getting too tired and familiar – a danger zone for meetings (that’s when people start to switch off and stop getting anything from it).

It also gives everyone a sense of ownership and involvement, which in turn helps buy-in for any actions they may need to take off the back of the meeting.

 

6. Follow up

If you’ve kept to your agenda, you’ll likely have follow-up actions and next steps. I try to email everyone who attended (and those who couldn’t make it) a brief summary of the meeting points covered and the actions agreed. This avoids any confusion and need for a  further to re-clarify. 

Don’t be tempted to put another date in the diary unless absolutely necessary. If you can, simply agree that when the need arises, a meeting will be scheduled.

 

7. Find other ways to build connection

Sometimes meets are held to build morale between employees or to build rapport with clients or service providers. Whilst I think these are incredibly important things, a meeting isn’t always the best way to build that connection. Can you do it in some other way? 

I needed to build rapport with a new member of my team so I asked her to attend an event with me. We had to travel by train together to get there, and it gave us time in a less formal capacity to get to know one another better. This was much more productive than having a meeting for the same purpose and felt much less staged. 

The same goes for meeting new or existing clients. Maybe take them to a talk, or a conference you’re attending. Or, maybe a simple lunch or coffee will suffice?

Sometimes things have to be a bit more organic. 

 


 

These suggestions aren’t about stopping traditional meetings altogether, but simply improving and reducing those that are surplus to requirement. Sometimes, you do need to have a bog-standard meeting. 

Whether to discuss HR matters with your staff (or manager), financially sensitive information with your accountant or to share business announcements that require a more formal setting. It’s about understanding which meetings are vital, and which aren’t, and making sure the ones you do have are productive and interesting. 

Share this content
Jen Smith

Jen Smith is an award-winning content and social media strategist and is one of our resident bloggers, with over five years writing for and supporting small businesses.

Leave a Reply

Register with Informi today:

  • Join over 20,000 like-minded business professionals
  • Create your own personalised account with curated reading lists and checklists
  • Access exclusive resources including business plans, templates, and tax calculators
  • Receive the latest business advice and insights from Informi
  • Join in the discussion through the comments section

or

I’ve been working through the how to start a business in 20 days ebook and so many of the things I’d done are now nicely tied together and some gaps now filled. I love the simplicity. Thank you.

Sarah Gosling – Gosling Charity Consulting

I love receiving my Informi emails. They’re always well written and engaging.

Jennifer Hobson – JEH Bookkeeping