Make meetings matter; answer these 4 questions

Meetings have a sneaky way of chewing up productivity and our time. So, knowing what you want out of a meeting and how to get the best result is a critical skill.

In a quote from HBR:

“Executives now spend an average of 23 hours a week in meetings, with 71% reporting that those meetings are generally unproductive and inefficient.”

With the nature of increased virtual meetings and a hybrid work environment, it seems we are all being pulled into more and more meetings.

In this article we unpack the guiding factors in deciding how to design a meeting, and ensure optimal results.

Clarity for productive meetings

We have 4 questions to ensure meetings add value and not waste time;

1. What is the reason for the meeting?

Essentially you are asking yourself why are you holding a meeting and what is the primary goal?

Fundamentally there are seven types of meeting goals;

  • Share information

  • Advance the thinking

  • Improve communication

  • Build community

  • Build capacity

  • Make decisions

  • Obtain input

A meeting may have more than one goal, such as;

a) building community

b) sharing information

An example:

The goal might be to further build relationships between the senior team who normally work in different departments, and the purpose of the meeting is to share a common understanding of a new product being launched. Having clarity around these two specific goals allows focus for the meeting and what is to be achieved by the end.

2. Who needs to be in the meeting?

Consider who you need in the meeting to achieve the objective. Be clear on why they need to attend and any actions required.

An example:

If the outcome of the meeting is to make a critical decision, then who are the key people required to inform/make that decision, and the people that may only need to know the result.

3. What level of understanding does the group have?

Having an understanding of the group you are working with helps to determine the level of knowledge (individually and as a collective) and hence the level of interaction you can expect.

Credited: Tuckman's stages of group development

Refer to the forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning model - these represent the different stages a group can progress through.

An example:

You treat a group that is relatively new in knowing each other differently to one that has strong dynamics and perform well together. Their shared understanding and ability to work together shifts how fast they can work and what information they know.

4. What is the level of engagement needed?

The rule of thumb is - if it is a complex topic and the group has not worked together, the more likely a meeting will add value.

Credited: High-Impact Tools for Teams 5 Tools to Align Team Members, Build Trust, and Get Results Fast
An example:

If the goal is information sharing, a weekly status update via email for a group that interacts with each other regularly might be sufficient, as it is just information sharing and the group is unlikely to be confused with the content. However, if it was a status update on the formation of a project for the same group, an in-person meeting would be more helpful as the group may not have the same level of understanding, therefore seeing facial cues and ability to ask questions would be valuable.


To ensure your future meetings are efficient, valuable and productive for yourself and everyone involved, simply answer these 4 questions for clarity;

  • What is the reason for the meeting?

  • Who needs to be in the meeting?

  • What level of understanding does the group have?

  • What is the level of engagement needed?

When designing a facilitation process these are the key questions that need to be considered. Once you determine the reason for the meeting and the outcome you want, the following questions become very clear.

#productivemeetings #makemeetingsmatter #designmeetings