Run Effective Meetings

Make Meetings Suck Less: 10 Steps to Run Effective Meetings

Run Effective Meetings? Not so fast. The tactic I’m about to share led to one of the biggest turnarounds in American retail. I don’t share to be hyperbolic, but to show you the most simple business solutions are usually the best.

Run Effective Meetings

Run Effective Meetings: Make your meetings suck less

Several years ago, I was working with a large retailer. They quickly multiplied. In leadership training with senior executives, I promptly discovered everyone participated in meetings about meetings. People were too busy meeting to get work done.

Run Effective Meetings

I asked, “What’s your meeting ROI?” They looked puzzled.

I quickly had them calculate their spend on meetings. It’s easy for you to do this, too. I’ve outlined the steps below.

This retailer spent about $1.3 million a year in meetings – just at the executive level.

I asked them to come up with three criteria that make a great meeting. They said, “If meetings only started on time, ended on time and were a good general use of time, that’d be incredible!”

Grade your meetings: How effective are your meetings?

I then asked them, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you grade your meetings on the criteria? The average grade was a 5.9 – a failing grade on a $1.3 million investment!

They immediately implemented the steps below to run effective meetings. One year later, they were spending far less on meetings, raised the average grade to 9.2 (no one ever gets to 10) and had one of the most significant turnarounds in America Retail.

Was it all because of Meeting ROI? Of course not, but it sure helped. Your company probably spends a lot of time in meetings. Shouldn’t you make sure you are getting a high return?

A quick warning: This strategy does not cost you any money. It is overly obvious and embarrassingly simple. It will likely provide your company with one of the highest ROI’s of any investment you make this year. There will be a temptation to ignore this strategy due to its simplicity. It may also cause positive (versus punitive) accountability.

This strategy may not work for every single meeting. Instead of thinking about the instances where this approach won’t work, think about the cases where it will work. Do not be a coward. Be a leader and give this a try.

If you have a culture where people are not allowed to be transparent, this strategy will not work. You have much more significant problems.


Meeting ROI is a non-scientific way to measure the return on investment (ROI) you are getting from the time, money and talent you are investing in meetings. You are already making a significant investment on your meetings, but aren’t measuring the return.

10 STEPS TO MAKE YOUR MEETINGS SUCK LESS and run effective meetings

(the sequence of activities is essential)

  1. Have your team figure out how much time they spend in internal meetings each week. Multiply times 52 (weeks).
  2. Figure out their hourly salary (if they are salaried, take their annual salary plus payroll taxes, etc. and divide by 2080 hours for a year).
  3. Multiple the hours spent in meetings times their hourly salary.
  4. Add up everyone’s time and salary to come up with the money spent in internal meetings in a year. This does not take into account lost opportunity costs from sitting in a meeting versus out selling, building customer relationships, etc.
  5. Have your team come up with a list of what makes a meeting hugely successful, (e.g., an agenda, people come prepared, starts and ends on time, is a good use of time, etc.). Have them select the 2 or 3 most essential items from the list. In other words, if those criteria are done very well, it would make meetings a great use of time and talent.
  6. Create a baseline: have your team grade your meetings based on the criteria selected. Take the average of everyone’s score. Let this be your starting point.
  7. Look at your annual investment from time spent in meetings against the grade. Are you satisfied with this grade? Think of it as a letter grade – a 5.9 is an F (59%).
  8. Prepare your culture to start grading meetings. Set up the system to capture and track each meetings grade. Watch your meetings and culture start sucking less.
  9. Set a goal for your company meetings. Many want to have meetings average a score of “9” (no one seems to give a 10).
  10. Once you are achieving your goals, go back to the criteria you came up with in #5. See if there are any other criteria you want to start using to grade your meetings and continue the improvement process.


At the end of each meeting QUICKLY (no more than 5 minutes) go around the table and get everyone’s grade. Average the grade. Keep it on a report card for the particular meeting.

If someone grades lower than a 7, ask them, quickly, “What would make it a 9 or 10?” You’ll commonly hear responses such as, “I didn’t need to be here” or “This could have been solved via an email.” That’s ok. Be authentic and allow transparency. Don’t be defensive.

Post scores for all of your company’s different meetings as a fun way to create accountability and healthy competition.

Do what works for you and your company. Do not water this down so far it causes people to roll their eyes at the hypocrisy.

Beyond the increased financial performance, productivity and improved company communications, when you grade your meetings based on a pertinent set of criteria you cause real, authentic conversations to occur in your company.

Outcomes of an effective meeting

Several essential outcomes happen when you grade meetings:

  1. The meeting leader becomes highly sensitive to making sure the meeting is a good use of everyone’s time, and we following the selected grading criteria.
  2. The company leadership can get a report card for all internal meetings. They will know which meetings need their attention and which ones are running well.

The goal is betterment, not punitive harassment! Are you going to make your meetings suck less?



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