Meetings are terrible.

They  squander time, waste money, sap motivation, and simply frustrate us all. This isn't a new observation of course, it's so common it's a cliché.

Meeting advice is like diet advice--it's seemingly everywhere and yet most people still struggle with meeting and eating well.

My wife is a remarkable health coach. Her first offer to people trying to build a better relationship with food is to first concentrate on adding in good food rather than eliminating bad.

I find the same to be true of meetings.

An initial focus first on making parts of your meetings a little bit better is often more productive in the long run than a wholesale restructuring or adoption of a prescriptive process to address what is bad.

Here are a few ways to make your meetings immediately better. Each of these suggestions can be applied on their own, and will incrementally improve your time with your team.

1. Check-In Round

At the start of the meeting, go around the room and have each person answer the question: "What has your attention?"

Answers may include personal or business items that might keep the person from being fully present at this meeting. Sharing a potential distraction allows the group to be more empathetic with each other, and also allows the speaker to let it go. 

2. Separate Gathering and Processing  

Begin the meeting by stating its purpose--making a decision, project updates, brainstorming etc. And then ask, "What agenda items do we need to cover in order to achieve our purpose?"

Gather these items but don't discuss them or do any work on them, yet. Once all the items are up on a whiteboard decide what order you'll work on them in.

Only once this is done do you start working on the items. Work on them one at a time.

3. Facilitation

In most meetings the facilitator is the "meeting owner" or HPP (Highest Paid Person). They are the person most likely to dominate the conversation and stray from the agenda--you know who you are.

Establishing a facilitator who has less, or even no, stake in the outcome of the meeting will help you stay on track and get more done in less time. Facilitation is an important skill--often the best person for the job is quite junior in power and authority.

Encourage them, but also be careful not to undermine them.

These three things can make bad meetings bearable and even make them great. Good luck and share your favorite tip in the comments below.