How to make meetings more exciting

With recent studies suggesting that too many meetings are a waste of time, Jon Ingham has some handy tips for making the minutes count...

by Jon Ingham
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Few would disagree that meetings are a staple component of any office worker’s diet. A dedicated space for getting creative, brainstorming ideas and evaluating available options, meetings should spearhead the direction of upcoming activity and business. 

Meetings are in fact costing the UK economy £26 billion, according to new research from Epson and the Centre for Economics and Business Research. Indeed, the study found that office workers feel meetings are so unproductive that over half their time in them is wasted. 

So if you’re getting the sense that your colleagues and employees are secretly dreading a plethora of deathly dull gatherings, here are some suggestions to deliver successful, productive sessions:

Dispense with chairs

It’s still common to be seated all day, so use meetings as an excuse to stand up and get active. I’m a believer that this approach means that attendees’ energies remain higher, helping deliver better levels of engagement, more enthusiasm and creativity.

Get social

If the goal of the meeting is to canvas opinion from a broad spread of individuals, why limit it to one group or location? Try reaching out via the likes of Twitter or an internal messaging equivalent to pool viewpoints and gather perspectives.

Opting out

Research from Epson and the CEBR found that if the wasted meeting hours in 2011 had been spent productively, this would equate to 13 million more productive hours per week. Quite simply, if someone doesn’t feel a meeting is relevant to their role then they should be allowed to excuse themselves.

Avoid technology blunders

Sixteen per cent of UK office workers cited technology failure as a main cause for wasted time in meetings. If you need a projector or screen, then take the time beforehand to check it’s working and can do what is required of it.

Water cooler culture

Have a think about the culture for discussion in your office; do colleagues get together and talk through things in person, or do they resort to email and phone conversations? A business that encourages ad hoc face-to-face interaction whenever possible could find itself needing to schedule meetings less and less.

Be bold with timings

Does any meeting really need to take an entire day? Think of the length you anticipate your meeting to be. Then halve that, and send around a diary note. A relevant, dynamic 20 minute session is infinitely more valuable than a dragged-out, 40 minute long marathon.

Get creative with locations

Why not make meetings an excuse to head for a fresh location? Can you take your colleagues offsite to a more inspiring locations such as an art gallery or a nearby roof-top garden.

Weapons of mass distraction

Epson and CEBR found that 68% of UK office workers find it distracting when other people use electronic devices in meetings. The flip side is that 36% of respondents feel that using personal devices in a meeting improved their productivity. Pull together some guidelines on appropriate usage.

Use professional facilitation

Worried about the way your meetings are heading? Consult with a productivity expert beforehand to explore practical advice and etiquette to deliver a successful session. If this isn’t possible, try assigning responsibility to someone to act as a meeting moderator and ensure everyone has a say.

Better biscuits

When asked what would help focus their attention, a fifth of UK office workers replied that more refreshments would help. If a simple sugar rush will help with productivity, it makes sense to invest in the right food and drink to keep staff engaged. 


Jon Ingham is a Human Capital Management expert. Learn more at

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