6 ways to run a meeting poorly

This post is more than 3 years old.

Are you trying to sabotage your organization by reducing productivity? Are you trying to frustrate and dis-empower your co-workers? Do you have a laser-like focus on poor communication? If so, then you'll appreciate these six tips for how to run a meeting poorly:

  1. Really RUN the meeting. Make it known that you're in charge and that this is your meeting - nothing will be discussed or decided unless you are the one initiating and guiding it. If someone else tries to show leadership in the conversation, shoot down their ideas as unfeasible or laughable, and then change the topic. If someone tries to step in and take control, talk louder and longer than they do until they sit quietly. Don't be afraid to end the meeting abruptly.
  2. Pretend to ask for input from others, but never actually stop talking long enough to receive it. You can create the appearance of a collaborative meeting environment by saying things like, "let's take a moment to go around and see what other ideas are out there," but then continue to talk about what those ideas might be, who might have them, the weather, etc. until the time for input has been used up. If someone does start to get their thoughts in, pretend to take an important call so that you have to leave the room.
  3. Don't have an agenda, or if you do, make sure it's vague and that you don't really follow it. Agendas only serve to focus the discussion, and your goal here is to allow for wild tangents and distracted commentary without really getting to any action/decision points. You also can really throw people off nicely by putting the most pressing and critical issues at the very bottom of the list while mundane items that don't require a meeting at all are at the top - this insures you will never have a meeting of substance.
  4. Abuse everyone else's time and plans. In advance, ask everyone to be there promptly, and then start the meeting late. Let the meeting run longer than the scheduled time and if anyone tries to leave, keep saying that it will be just a few more seconds. Change the location of the meeting at the last minute and berate anyone who shows up late. If one person dominates the meeting, encourage them by asking follow-up questions and say affirming things like, "I'd really like for you to expand on that more." Take lots of time to have everyone get out their calendars to schedule follow-up meetings, and then pick a time when only a minority of the people present can attend.
  5. Don't take detailed meeting minutes. Detailed meeting minutes (and expectations that people read and incorporate them) are a huge barrier to running a meeting poorly. If you see anyone taking notes that might make it out of the room, declare that "we're just brainstorming" and ask everyone to put away their paper. If you have to take minutes, insure that you only include short, one-sentence summaries of any discussion, and never identify anyone by name. This insures that all future meetings will be spent re-discussing the same topics, and that new people joining in will have free reign to ask everyone else to start from the beginning.
  6. Use lots of jargon. Make people feel like they're being productive by inserting lots of feel-good organizational jargon into the conversation: action items, synergy, moving forward, utilize, task force, strategic memo, focus in, sync up, touch base, connect with, goal-oriented, put it in the cloud. And so on.

I realize that these tips are only the tip of the iceberg, and that there are many more ways to run a meeting poorly, but I hope this is helpful. What are some of your favorites?

4 thoughts on “6 ways to run a meeting poorly

  1. I didn't even know you were in the room....
    This is great but way too concise Chris. You have to expand it by four more points so we can publish it on AOL's welcome screen.

  2. Here's another bit of jargoon I saw in an email, "socialize requirements." No clue as to what this means, but it sounds tremendously important and enormously complex.

  3. Very funny. Never heard of "put it in the cloud."

    It may be interesting to add some things that people who don't run meetings do that also lead to unproductive meetings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *