Top 10 Signs You’re Having Bullshit Meetings

Illustration by Phillip Leslie

The first thing to ask yourself (or your team) is: will our meetings help us reach our goals?

Consider this: If you don’t have goals and you are in a meeting to evaluate and make decisions about vendors or a specific technology, the meeting is pointless. You won’t know what technology or partners you’ll need if you don’t know what you want to achieve. A better beginning would be a goal-setting session to determine the purpose and outcomes of any future meetings.

Here are some initial questions to determine whether a meeting is even necessary: 

  • Will the meeting help us reach our goals?
  • Will the meeting produce something that will help us reach our goals?
  • Will the meeting surface a decision about how to reach our goals?
  • Will the meeting allow us to attend to a challenge, problem or crisis that is blocking our goals?

Successful meetings always further your team’s goals and always require their collective genius to make progress. If these criteria aren’t met, you have no reason to meet.

Here are the Top 10 signs your meetings are unnecessary or need to radically change:

  1. No one knows why they are there.
    There’s no agenda and no sent a reminder about what to bring or what to expect.
  2. One person talks the whole time.
    This is not a meeting. This is a presentation.
  3. Not everyone is there for the right reasons.
    It’s a sales meeting and someone is talking about product development and handing out business cards. Does he even work here?
  4. No one has the right supplies.
    You have two permanent markers and one dry erase wall. Everyone is crowded around your laptop because there’s no screen or TV in the room. The sticky notes are Missing In Action.
  5. There’s “no energy.”
    You’re leading everyone in singing and clapping, but no one else is smiling. No one is engaging in conversation or volunteering for projects. Someone is asleep, and you don’t blame them.
  6. No one can see or hear well enough to get anything done.
    Maybe the sports bar was a bad idea for the intervention.
  7. No one can stay focused.
    Everyone is on their phones or their laptops. People are using the meeting like a study hall or a social opportunity.
  8. The meeting doesn’t stay on track (and/or runs too long).
    Time is wasted. Norms are violated. Trust is broken.
  9. When it’s over, no one has clear action items or deadlines.
    No one leaves the meeting knowing what to do, who will do it, or when it’s getting done. More meetings become necessary. When will it end?!
  10. When it’s over, no one can remember what the meeting was about.
    There are no minutes, or a recap of the agenda, or an audio recording, or a doodle, or anything. With no notes, next week will be more of the same…

This is just the tip of a very boring and painful iceberg. If you have experienced any of these symptoms, my latest book, The Visual Meetings Field Guide was written to help you design meetings that are fun, energizing and prime your team for action. From now on, your meetings will galvanize culture and get things done.

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