FOR THE MOST PART, I hate meetings mostly because I do not plan many of the ones I attend. It didn’t always used to be this way; it just kind of happened little-by-little, over time. Early in my career, I thought meetings meant people who were invited into the conference room were really important people--critical to the success of the company. Apparently, that was not the case. 
My Indoctrination

In the earliest part of my career, while employed at my first big company, I worked at a desk in a small cubicle. Working from this confined space, my fellow cube-mates and I became known as “box people,” referring to our solitary confinement-like work space. From this daily vantage point, I was always able to view some of my other co-workers, mostly managers and department heads, filing into the super-sized conference room and then closing the door for the “big meetings.” I had been in that room before, strictly as a spectator of course, just to see what the big room looked like. It was a big, fancy space full of large-scale furniture, complete with several presentation gizmos sitting on display. It was impressive. Day after day, different people from different departments cruised through the big double-doors for their gatherings. Many times, out-of-towners would stroll into our offices to take part in those meetings, and taking their turn in those big chairs.

It seemed like there were multiple meetings in that room every day. “How could there be such a need for so many meetings in one company?” I would always ask myself. I mean seriously, we only had a couple hundred employees in that office. Then one day: it happened.  I received an invitation (more like a summons) to attend a meeting in the big room. I was riding on a high-horse that day when I came in, too. I blocked out part of my day on the calendar and told all the other “box people” about it. It was like one of us from the wrong side of the tracks was moving out into the expensive neighborhood. 

Although I knew everyone at the meeting, it was still strange walking in there that day. My boss’ boss was leading the meeting and explained to us that we were being placed on a team to develop a new project for one of our biggest clients. I remember him saying, as I devoured the last bite of my scone, that the pressure was on us and we needed to perform. We were informed that numerous meetings would be held about this project in the days and weeks to come. Before I knew it, the meeting was over. That was my first experience with a big meeting. Nothing really happened and nothing was discussed other than to inform us that there would be more meetings about this. This perplexed me. No note-taking, no reminders, no tasks…nothing. Well, I thought, maybe in the next meeting we would get down to business.

The following week, we met again. This time, we got a little deeper into the nuts and bolts of the project; however, it was explained to us that the parameters of the project and our job descriptions would be emailed to us. What? And just two days later, we met to discuss the outlines we received via email, only to adjourn with not much more info or prospective steps put into place.

My Altered Perception

After four meetings, I had experienced the “getting ready to get ready” approach to a project. Others on the team laughed all the crass goings-on as part of the so-called meeting culture of the company. When I inquired with one of the “regulars” of the meeting circuit, it was explained to me that the meetings held in that room never really had any substance—that they were more “show” than “tell.” Really, I thought, why the pomp and circumstance? 

Once my team finally got into the big project, these damn meetings actually began getting in the way of progress; not to mention, how many scones can a guy eat during a week? I began to dread those meetings; and thus, my disdain for meetings in general commenced.

How many other companies and organizations had the same approach to meetings as my firm did? Apparently, a lot of them toiled in the same muddle, as reported by my friends working at other companies around town. It’s funny; I used to laugh at my father when he walked through the front door just before dinner, complaining about the useless meeting that made him late getting home again. “What’s the big deal?” I would ask. He would always tell me I wouldn’t understand until it happened to me.  Years later, I became the one rambling on about the same stuff during happy hour gatherings with fellow sufferers. 

My Current and Realistic Viewpoint

Let me be clear: meetings are vital, many times, for the success of a project or to share information and ideas openly with others. They can be a source of good feedback, good motivational devices, and even a time to bond with fellow employees. However, they must be done right in order to pull these things off. Otherwise, it represents nothing more than an unmitigated disaster. 

Truth be told, meetings, especially ones in the corporate arena, are often worthless and interfering devices called for and organized by individuals who have nothing better to do with their time. Busy, hard-working people with full schedules get this—others do not. Who doesn’t get it? Politicians; they just love the spotlight and the attention. Corporate leaders (big bosses, people with big titles after their names) with the power to schedule meetings (just like politicians), who also have big egos to serve love them too. Other culprits include people with nothing on their schedule, lazy people, corporate brown-nosers, people who eat scones after lunch, “box people,” people who like making binders and copies of documents of things (instead of digital files) and handing them out to those who want them and the joyful box people who’ve never attended meetings.

Even the definition of “meeting” is too vague. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary ( describes it as “an act or process of coming together” or as “an assembly for a common purpose.” This description alone should immediately scare the hell out of anyone being invited to a meeting—period! The problem is that meetings are never clearly defined. Have you ever called or texted a friend or colleague and been told they were in a meeting? If so, get new friends, as they may be trapped in a vortex with no real prospects of returning to normality. 

Here are meeting requests I will accept:
  • I know and trust you
  • I have seen the agenda and time-frames
  • You are awarding me a huge prize
  • I have been selected to travel around the world at your expense to write about my experiences
  • You want to buy one of my companies
  • You want to hire me without negotiating my fee

My Personal Research
I once called a meeting to actually find out what people hated about meetings. It was the best meeting in the history of our company. The results were epic; I was a hero for initiating it, too! Why? Because everyone in the room was able to contribute! First, we allowed the participants to tell funny stories about disastrous meetings they had attended in the past…even ones within our own company. They gave accounts on bad joke-telling, bad food, stupid power points, ridiculous topics, conversations veering into ill-advised directions, and more. In fact, the stories I heard that day ended up being excellent subject matter for me, which I subsequently used later in some of my corporate training meetings and speaking engagements. 
Next on the agenda, we had a little more serious dialogue regarding the negative aspects of meetings themselves. We began writing everything our employees hated about attending meetings on a whiteboard. It was incredible—long running times, poor meeting planning, no advanced agendas being sent out, room temps, dress code adherence, people arriving late/leaving early, talking/eating/not paying attention during the proceedings, and countless other idiosyncrasies that drove people crazy about having to attend.

My Point

Today, you can also go on the internet and find endless reading material about why people all around the world hate meetings. You can read comical accounts of meetings gone awry and horror stories about the colossal waste of time they can be if not managed properly. With that being said, if you are ever charged with planning and organizing a meeting, following a few, simple guidelines could help you turn out a winning experience for everyone: Let’s examine what factors can lead to success or to a disaster-in-the-making:
  • Don't Meet: Try avoiding a meeting altogether, if possible. If the same information can be distributed in an email, put it into a report or memo, or simply delivered through a quick phone conference, then save time and headaches for everyone and adjust the device in which the information is sent and received.
  • Have Clear and Concise Objectives for the Meeting:  This will help you (or the moderator of the meeting) to have specific topics and bullets to discuss. 
  • Announce the Agenda in Advance: An advanced agenda to those participating is a tremendous way allowing them to also prepare questions or commentary. Additionally, it is instrumental in keeping everyone on the “same page” and not veering into other subjects. 
  • Describe Responsibilities for All Participants:  Describe to all potential attendees the underlying principles as to why they are being asked to attend and request that they prepare for the meeting accordingly. This will make for a well-organized and properly planned setting for the meeting. This process assists in keeping the proceedings on-point and on-track for a well-timed event.  
  • Start / Finish on Time: Enough Said.
When it actually comes time to plan, organize and begin inviting attendees, there are also a few items you will want to address regarding the actual meeting itself:
  • Invite Only Essential Attendees: Putting a bunch of people not relevant to the proceedings just complicates everything. If they have a reason to be there, they’re invited; otherwise, take them off the list.
  • Focus: Starting and ending on time is vital. Design the meeting to keep moving according to your advanced agenda. Cover only the elements on the agenda, unless otherwise dictated by new or unforeseen information.
  • Plan for New Business: A few minutes at the end of every meeting for follow-up questions, new items of concern, announcements, and any other business matters affecting all or most attendees can be addressed at the conclusion of the meeting. 
  • Comfort: Room temperature, food & refreshments (scones), media equipment, internet connection, information on dress code, scheduled bathroom breaks, directions to the meeting facility, property/building access, presentation materials, and required items to be brought by participants are just some of the elements you will need to address for a “complete” meeting that ends with success. Having the participants know and feel comfortable about what to bring and what to expect is a professional approach, and will be noticed by others.
My advice, after all of this, is to simply be prepared. If you are scheduled or invited to attend a meeting and you are not given enough information, inquire about the elements crucial to you attending. If you are planning and organizing a meeting, follow the simple steps listed above to make you look like a champion to those you invite. Additionally, there are countless resources on the internet and through books and periodicals to help you perform this task with perfection.
My last words of wisdom for you are simple. When the time comes when you honestly believe in your heart that sharing information with or obtaining intel from a certain group of people about a certain subject is vital, ask yourself one simple question before exerting an ounce of energy: “Is this meeting really necessary?”