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Follow Our Meeting Guidelines & Stop Wasting Time in Meetings

Meetings start and end late. Attendees slyly send text messages under the table, like no one can see them. Decision makers are absent, requiring you to have another meeting. One person talks most of the time, while everyone else tunes out.

The meeting facilitator wants to do something but feels like s/he can’t. How do you tell someone two levels above you to put away his phone and pay attention?

The majority of meetings are too long and a poor use of time.

You can impact the meetings in your organization, even if you don’t run them.

The bad meeting behavior mentioned above is predictable. It’s happening everywhere.

If you want your meetings to be different, ask for something different, before problems occur.

The reason your meeting facilitators feel as if they can’t tell their boss’s boss to show up and pay attention is because there has been no expectation set that it’s ok to do so. Meeting guidelines have not been established. And if they were established it was done long ago and the expectations were long forgotten.

Running an effective meeting requires courage AND an understanding that the meeting facilitator has permission and is expected to address people who break the rules. Even the most senior person in the room has given the facilitator permission to correct him. Without this permission, your facilitator can’t say anything, which is why s/he doesn’t.

How to have better meetings. Follow these meeting guidelines:

  1. Get meeting attendees’ agreement on the meeting guidelines.
  2. Give the meeting facilitator AND attendees permission to enforce the meeting guidelines.
  3. Take two minutes to set expectations before every meeting. Yes every meeting, even standing meetings. People forget. When you remind people of the rules, it’s easier to enforce them.
  4. Post the meeting guidelines in all of your conference and training rooms as reminders. Make the posters with large font that can be read from any seat in the room. We’ve made it easy for you with our Make Meetings Work Poster.meeting guidelines
  5. Periodically discuss how meetings are going – what’s working and what can be improved.  Create occasions and grant permission to give feedback. If it isn’t safe to tell the truth, nothing will get better.

Stop wasting your time in meetings. It’s never too late to set expectations. Hang them up on the wall for everyone to see. Anyone, at any level, and in any role can suggest setting and adhering to meeting guidelines. People in your organization want someone to take control.  Maybe it will be you?


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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