NextGen Know How: A Formula For Better Meetings

happy businesswomen eating take out food and talking at office
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

4 minutes

How many have you attended this week? Were they worth your time?

It's probably no surprise to you that meetings cost organizations valuable time, energy and money. Most leaders are in so many meetings that there is no time to get real work done!

Does that sound familiar?

According to, meetings are estimated to waste about $37 billion a year in the United States. A meeting with several managers and executives could cost up to $1,000 an hour in salaries. And 73 percent of employees do other work during meetings.

I've developed a framework for making meetings much more productive so you can gain back valuable time and get better results.


Clarity + Purpose + Accountability = Results

Clarity: A meeting will be more efficient and effective if you have clarity around what you want to accomplish and who should be there. One of the biggest mistakes professionals make is to meet without a clear goal for that particular meeting. The result is wasted time while a lot gets talked about, but not much gets done.

Some questions to consider:

  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • What is the goal or outcome of this meeting?
  • Do you really need a meeting to accomplish the goal?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What are the key decisions that need to be made?

Create an agenda and communicate these specifics to participants.

Purpose: Meetings need a purpose. Every meeting needs a goal. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, suggests creating a "Statement of Wild Success." What would have to happen for your meeting to be wildly successful?

Having a purpose for your meeting seems obvious, but how many meetings have you attended where there seems to be no focus? Maybe there are 10 items on the agenda and discussions get completely off track. Before you start any meeting, state the goal or outcome (write it on a white board or agenda) and identify the key decisions that need to be made.

Accountability: How many meetings have you sat in where the team discusses great ideas, and then everyone leaves and nothing gets done? The productivity and energy that was created in the room is completely lost when there is no follow-up. There must be accountability around action items for meetings to be a success. If you spend the meeting talking about ideas and then leave without assigning tasks or due dates, you are wasting time.

The first way to create accountability is to start the meeting on time. Don't wait for stragglers, just start. By starting on time, you set the tone for a productive meeting and you also send the message that you respect everyone's time.

Another way to build accountability is to put one practice in place at the end of every meeting held at your organization: the end of meeting recap.

Take five minutes at the end of every meeting to convert discussions into action. Recap any decisions or actions items.

  • What are the key takeaways?
  • Who is responsible?
  • What is the deadline?
  • Who do we need to communicate to?
  • What do we need to communicate?
  • When do we need to communicate by?

It's also important to have a facilitator of the meeting who can keep the discussion on track, remind everyone of the meeting objective, draw out differing opinions, and move the discussion along when someone is dominating the conversation. The facilitator plays a key role in getting results, since her actions set the tone for the entire meeting.

I also recommend assigning a note taker in each meeting. The primary purpose of the note taker is to track any decisions or action items, who is responsible, and the due date. The note taker should email this information (in the body, not an attachment) within 24 hours of the end of the meeting.  This ensures everyone is on the same page.

These simple practices will cut down on wasted time, increase meeting productivity and ensure your team actually gets results from the time invested. You may even find that you need fewer meetings because the team becomes more disciplined and efficient. Wouldn't that be nice?!

I'd love to hear from you: What is one way you make your meetings more productive?

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or

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