No one wants another meeting, especially a non-productive session.

To ensure that your meetings are anticipated, respected, and more productive than the meeting your participants came from or the meeting they are headed to next, embrace the following suggestions to correct why meetings fail.

Why Meetings Fail

Why Meetings Fail

Start on Time

Do not penalize people who are on time by waiting for people who are late. Few irritants get a meeting started poorly than a wavering start time. Ask participants to notify you in advance if they might be late. If they arrive late, do NOT consume others’ time by reviewing what has transpired. Instead, pair them off with someone else and ask them to go in the hallway to provide an update.


If it was not documented then it did not happen. Meetings without documentation suggest that nothing worthwhile happened. Optimally, add context and rationale for all topics and decisions made. Take any decision to a steering team or decision review board and their first challenge will be “Why?” Carefully leave a paper trail for the reasons.

Time Sensitivity

While participants should typically share a few laughs, real meeting success is judged by finishing on time, or better yet, ahead of schedule. Be careful about taking on strategic issues during a brief meeting, they should be logged and set aside for a longer forum. Do not allow participants to go into too much detail, that others find irrelevant. They can build and provide concrete details on their own. Remember too, that ‘standing’ meetings (ie, meetings held regularly at the same time every week) were originally intended for participants to stand and not sit. By the way, standing meetings complete much faster than sitting meetings.

Agenda Control

Stay vigilant about following the agenda. In other words, stay in scope. Sometimes arguments about the project, the organization, or other issues beyond control dominate a meeting. Participants that talk about what they want gives rise to the concept of people “who have their own agenda.” Stick to your agenda and monitor progress carefully.

Visual Support

Stimulate participants and discussion with the proper use of easels and supplementary visuals. Do not however rely on a deck of slides. People can read and challenge slide decks on their own, they do not need a meeting for that. Build slides that share causal links and supplement with visuals that stimulate. A visually dynamic meeting offers ‘sex appeal’ compared to others.

Secure Feedback

Get audible agreement, beginning with ground rules. Document decision points, preferably on large-scale poster size paper or white boards. As you build consensus, emphasize that consensus implies a quality decision that ALL participants can support, but NOT one that necessarily makes everyone happy. Consensus is something they can live with, and not disrupt in the hallways after the meeting.

Careful Review

Upon conclusion, carefully review and confirm that everyone understands next steps. If the meeting changes nothing, why meet?. Make the change or assignments visible and consider using a RASI chart for support. For any and all follow-up meeting(s), confirm future dates, times, and locations. Most importantly, conclude on time, or preferably, early. Before they depart, secure additional feedback on what you could have done to make the meeting even more successful. For solid and anonymous feedback, use our Post-it© note approach combined with the t-Chart called Plus-Delta. They provide more meaningful input than offered openly in public. Participants do not want to “embarrass” you with their criticism.

Why meetings fail? By following the suggestions above you can circumvent the three most common complaints about meetings, namely:

  1. Disorganized (ie, uncertain output or outcome)
  2. Length (ie, wasted time)
  3. Predetermined decisions (meetings are a poor form of persuasion)


Finally, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on providing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices methodology and tools before class concludes. Additionally, some call this immersion. However, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation. Therefore, our training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH  Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH  for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. You will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.



Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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