Meetings: Throw-out the Rules & Focus on Engagement

That’s right. I said throw-out the meeting rules. We have all received an agenda 24 hours in advance, shown up on time, and “stayed on topic.” However, the result was still a useless, time suck of a meeting because the rules do not improve ENGAGEMENT. For meetings to be effective, they need a clear way to generate active participation.

Used effectively, meetings engage the right people, on the right issues, at the right time. Patrick Lencioni, author of Death by Meetings, describes effective meetings this way: “When a group of intelligent people come together to talk about issues that matter, it is both natural and productive for disagreement to occur. Resolving those issues is what makes a meeting productive, engaging, even fun.”

Define the desired meeting outcome.

Clearly define the purpose of the meeting and the type of meeting that will get you there.

  • Decision making — The meeting is intended to articulate a problem that requires a decision. Make sure you know if you are expecting a decision in the meeting or if this is a meeting to setup the problem for further discussion.
  • Planning — These meetings should be setup to generate brainstorming on tasks, issues, and risks as well as approaches to deliver the initiative.
  • Informing — Sharing progress on an initiative. Examples: Executive Update, Team Status, etc.

Always ask, is a meeting the best approach?

If the purpose is Informing, email may be a better alternative. The state and strategic importance of the initiative will dictate the need for a formal readout. Try pairing informing emails with a short optional meeting.

Define the attendee list and include their role.

Build your attendee list with clear roles including decision maker, subject matter expert, stakeholder, project team member, etc.

Build an agenda that drives the discussion toward the outcome.

  • Make sure all the speakers know their time allotment and topics
  • Clearly describe the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting
  • Utilize subject matter experts to provide context with appropriate data and status
  • Outline the topics or questions to pose that will drive the discussion towards the outcome
  • Schedule the appropriate amount of time for the discussion. Try 15 or 45 minute meetings

Focus on meeting engagement and your meeting attendees will thank you.


Mary Sue Dahill, Technology Management Consultant and Project Management Master at MSD Advisors

Mary Sue helps executives succeed by getting the most out of their teams, initiatives, and investments. She creates clarity and delivers results in complex, challenging environments with proven experience within successful commercial software companies. If you are ready to generate momentum that matters, make an appoint today.

Originally shared by me, Mary Sue Dahill, on Linked In