top of page




Over more than 30 years of covering state and local government, we can’t recall ever talking to a public sector manager who loved going to meetings. They may occasionally enjoy them, and they know that they need them. But, on the whole, the complaint that we hear most frequently goes something like this: “I’m spending so much time in meetings that I can’t get my work done.”


Even in the day of remote work, when many participants can attend meetings virtually, there’s a multiplier factor here. Let’s say that a manager calls a meeting with seven supervisors for a two-hour session. That’s eight people, including the manager, times two hours or a total of sixteen hours — or two full days of work for one person. That doesn’t even count the amount of time people should be taking to prepare for the gathering, and the snarky texts that follow along complaining about the waste of time.


The following, based on a number of conversations we’ve had over the years (as well as a certain amount of personal experience), are nine ideas for making meetings more productive, and possibly cutting down on resentment at their very existence.

1.     Whoever is running the meeting should be there exactly when the meeting is supposed to start. In the old days (not so long ago, really), this was a syndrome of meetings where everyone gathered around a conference table. But it’s got a new wrinkle for virtual meetings, when online participants can sit around awaiting the person who can let them into the virtual meeting room.


2.     Somebody should be taking really good notes, and — without taking too much time — distributing them to the men and women who were in attendance afterwards, who can then share them with others who would benefit by knowing what went on. With the advent of electronic transcription technology, this needn’t be a burden.

3.     If you set a meeting for an hour, and it doesn’t need an hour, don’t wait for the Red Sea to part. Just let those people go.

4.     If you set a meeting for an hour, every effort should be taken to have it end at the hours end. This may require cutting off people who want to join in the discussion in a way that can be very wordy.

5.     If you ask the participants in a meeting to identify themselves, ask them to do so in 30 seconds or less.

6.     Meetings should end with some time to discuss “next steps,” so that attendees will feel like this session led someplace except to the graveyard of hours they’ll never see again.

7.     Make sure the people in the room all get an agenda in advance. And by in advance, we don’t mean an e-mail that pops up 10 minutes before the gathering begins.

8.     Don’t fall into the trap of believing that there’s infinite time for the meeting during the first third, moving along at a decent pace in the second third, and then rushing in the last third — which often is when the group is trying to come to some conclusions.

9.     Finally, in hybrid meetings, make certain that the virtual participants are included as thoroughly as the people in the room.



bottom of page