Why Most Meetings Suck (and how to make them AWESOME)

Old School MeetingMost meetings suck.

Am I right or am I right or am I right? Right. Right. Right. <–MUST SEE Groundhog Day clip

But they don’t have to. Meeting can actually be AWESOME.

Before we talk about awesome meetings, let’s discuss what makes so many meetings sucky.

What Makes Meetings SUCK

Off the top of my head, most meetings suck because they :

  • Don’t have a purpose
  • Don’t have an agenda
  • Don’t have active participation from meeting attendees (laptops are open! texts are flying!)
  • Are too long
  • Are too short
  • Have no action items
  • Have too many people
  • Have too few people
  • Have the wrong people
  • Have too many “yes” people
  • Have too many “no” people
  • Have too may executives
  • Have too few executives
  • Are way (WAY) too frequent

Some meeting suck because they look like this:

Can’t see the video? Try watching it on YouTube.

And yes, I realize that video is really more about “the expert,” but lots of the components of a sucky meeting are still present.

Others, specifically conference calls, are like this one:

Can’t see the video? Try watching it on YouTube.

Both types of meeting suck.

Nearly 4 years ago, Seth Godin suggested meeting should be more expensive. Somewhat tongue in check, but also somewhat for real, he suggested organizations should “hire meeting fairie” [sic].

In that post, Seth said,

The fairie’s job would be to ensure that meetings were short, efficient and effective.

The post then lists what, specifically, the fairy would work on (go read the post, then come back!)

Godin concludes,

If you do all this, every time you call a meeting it’s going to cost more to organize. Which means you’ll call fewer meetings, those meetings will be shorter and more efficient. And in the long run, you’ll waste less time and get more done.

Everyone is happy. Everyone wins. Seth Godin: You are a (marketing) genius!

So if the “formula” is that easy, why aren’t more companies hiring meeting fairies? That was a serious question – one which I’m sorry to say I do not have the answer to. If anyone does have an explanation for why there are not more meeting fairies, please drop a comment below and let us know.

Okay. So now that we know why meetings suck … and what Seth Godin recommends to make them less sucky, let’s talk about how to make meetings AWESOME.

What Makes Meetings AWESOME

I asked some of my friends on Facebook to share what makes meetings AWESOME. Here is what they shared:

Lara Baker: Kick ass meetings have something unexpected – a fun team building activity, a surprise speaker on a topic of interest, a change of venue (maybe meet outside if the weather is nice?), etc. Something to get you out of the rut and the norm!!

Ethan Beute: Kick Ass Awesome meetings:
– Everyone knows who’s going to be in the meeting.
– Everyone knows the purpose of the meeting.
– Everyone is engaged in the process of fulfilling the meeting’s purpose.
– The purpose of the meeting is fulfilled.

Dayna Rothman: Awesome meetings have cupcakes

Paula Kiger: I would add, “everyone is prepared” from the standpoint of follow ups that have been promised (and I have most definitely been the guilty party here). A meeting immediately loses its “kick ass” classification if too many attendees have to say “I will have to get back to you on that” (if it’s something they were supposed to have ready.”

What would YOU add to the list of how to make meetings more awesome (or awesomer)? 

Please drop a comment below. #ENDSUCKYMEETINGS

Oh, and please tweet this!

Beki Scarbrough
Beki Scarbrough

You are on a call.  Host is chatting and people are responding.  Their conversation triggers an idea on how to achieve the goal (insert: better, faster, smarter, easier, etc) and chime in. Host replies, that's a great idea, but hold on that and let's get through the agenda first.  Translated: I have no intention of being flexible, cooperative or collaborative.  I've gathered you all here to check the box that says "gathered all here".  

*head explodes* 

Host runs out the clock and everyone goes off to check off the boxes from the items they were assigned.  Meet next week to double check the checks and assign new boxes. 

*head explodes* 


DJ - Great visuals and sound is critical. Please do not overload powerpoints or keynotes with text and remember, if you're just going to read the power point, email it to attendees instead.

Food and drink usually makes meetings more awesome. That's why people will attend a "Happy Hour" meeting with more excitement than a TPS Report Review meeting


Kind of a side issue but meetings would suck less for me if there was an openness to a little movement (i.e., if I am literally sitting for 15/30/45 minutes, I am guaranteed to get sleepy. Doesn't mean I'm not interested ..... just happens.) The ability to slip my chair back and walk around the room will help me think better and contribute more ........ #EndSuckyMeetings


You should also check out Patrick Lencioni's "Death by Meeting".  Covers the approaches to a few common business meetings.  Daily check in, weekly tactical, monthly strategic, etc...


@kahickey Thanks for the share! And YES, lots of other ways to give "updates" ...


I hate it when, during a meeting, someone says, "That's something we should discuss offline." I always say, OUT LOUD, "We already ARE offline!"

Meetings would suck less if people said exactly what needed to be said, IN THE MEETING, then someone (the fairie?) wrote down exactly WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING STUFF DONE AND BY WHEN. Usually, a couple people in a meeting may take some notes, a few others may verbally agree on something and everyone says "great meeting!" Then they leave and nothing gets done until the next meeting. Ground Hog Day, indeed!

There's the real problem, people don't want to actually DO THE WORK, they just want to TALK ABOUT DOING THE WORK. Which is why most meetings suck. Wait, who called this meeting? DJ? I need to talk to you about this offline later...

djwaldow moderator

@brandonuttley "There's the real problem, people don't want to actually DO THE WORK, they just want to TALK ABOUT DOING THE WORK. Which is why most meetings suck." <--YES!