The Top 5 Meeting Mistakes You’re Making Right Now

You can tell when a business meeting has gone horribly wrong. People get distracted, all the energy has been sucked from the room and one person seems to drone on forever (could it be you?). Generally speaking, such meetings are rarely productive; instead, they’re a waste of valuable time, which translates into a waste of money.

man in meeting

Here are the top five most common meeting mistakes, with suggestions for improving the situation and getting a significantly higher ROI for your efforts:

1. Inviting too many people. Any meeting with 10, 12 or more attendees is almost certainly doomed to failure—particularly if one of the stated objectives is to foster “a spirited discussion.” In such cases, it’s likely that people were invited to attend who have no real business being there. While it may be tempting to hold a large group of people captive just so you can share your thoughts on the business, it’s ineffective and wasteful. Knowing why you’re having a meeting (see #2) can help you identify the individuals who should attend. Everyone else can get an email summary afterwards.

2. Having an agenda, but not sticking to it. If there’s no stated purpose for the meeting, do everyone a favor and cancel. Every meeting should come with a clear agenda, ideally delivered to all attendees a day or two beforehand, so they can prepare their comments and contributions.

3. Not enforcing schedule and time-limits. Ever been in (or led) a meeting where the discussion just drags on and on, long past the point where anyone has anything useful to say? This is often the consequence of lacking an agenda or stated purpose. All meetings should have a specified start and finish time—and those times should be honored. Tolerance for people who show up late (or leave early) sends the message to others that no one really cares about the time-factor, when in fact long, drawn-out meetings disrupt everyone’s busy schedules.

4. An absence of ground-rules. When a group of people get talking, things can quickly spiral out of hand. Discussions bog down on trivial matters. One or two people tend to dominate the conversation. No one takes control and the meeting falls into a black hole. This happens when there’s no ground-rules for meeting conduct. To fix the problem, make sure attendees understand that (a) Each participant is permitted to respond to an agenda item (if they so choose); (b) People should be allowed to speak without interruption; (c) The discussion must focus on the issue at hand; and (d) Attendees should make every effort not to get sidetracked on peripheral matters.

5. No official note-taker. You may think you have total recall of a meeting’s key points after its conclusion, but don’t bet on it. Even an hour or two later, you and others who attended may forget what action steps are to be taken and who’s responsible for them. To avoid this problem, appoint a note-taker to capture the key points and, later the same day if possible, send an email to participants outlining what transpired and what’s supposed to happen next.

Many business leaders believe in having a standing weekly meeting where people can “check in” and stay updated on other people’s progress. That’s fine as long as the agenda is clear, participants observe the ground rules and the meeting ends at the specified time. This gives everyone involved a sense that time isn’t wasted and something actually gets done.

 Are you a CEO, president, or business owner? Is your company established and open to innovative thinking? We cordially invite you to attend a Catapult Groups Candidate Breakfast, hosted by Las Vegas-based Group Leader David Housey, on Tuesday, July 29th at the Four Seasons Hotel. Click here for more information or to register.

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