What makes good meetings (and what does not)

Meeting scientist, Prof. Dr. Steven Rogelberg, speaks with former BBC interviewer, Nisha Pillai, about what makes good meetings, and what does not, and how organisations can get more out of them.

Prof Dr Steven G Rogelberg
Steven Rogelberg
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The Agenda Podcasts

The Agenda brought to you by Sherpany uncovers the journey leaders take from facing challenges to making decisions. In this unique series of podcasts, leaders talk candidly with former BBC World Service interviewer, Nisha Pillai. #LeadingTogether

In this podcast episode, you will hear:

Meeting scientist, Prof. Dr. Steven Rogelberg, as he discusses the relevancy of meetings for leaders and organisations as an opportunity to gather together with colleagues and peers to collaborate, contribute, and connect. With an extensive academic background of over twenty years in researching meetings, and having authored a book titled "The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance", Prof. Rogelberg has an in-depth grasp of what makes good meetings (and what does not), and what was the impact of virtual meetings on organisations. So, here are some of the topics covered in the podcast episode that will help you develop a better understanding of the importance of meetings:

  • People hate bad meetings, and the reasons why
  • Three top tips to get the most out of meetings
  • Elevating virtual meetings through new tools and opportunities
  • An ending thought: How will the future of meetings pan out.


What makes good meetings (and what does not) with Prof. Steven Rogelberg

People hate bad meetings, and the reasons why

"I actually don't think people hate meetings as much as they say. What they hate are bad meetings , bad meetings or the problems, it's not meetings in of itself. I mean, we need meetings, right? Meetings are where organisational democracy comes to life. I think employees, and people in general, recognise that gathering together is an opportunity to contribute, to positively affect work and also a great opportunity to connect with your colleagues.

They are bad for so many reasons. It starts with the fact that organisations provide almost no training on how to effectively lead meetings, which is pretty jarring when you think about how many meetings we have. They're bad because what also exists is a blind spot that leaders think they are better at leading meetings than they really are.

And as a result, they're not motivated to make changes. And the final reason I think they're bad is that organisations do almost nothing to assess how their meetings are going. You could look at organisational engagement surveys. There's no content on meetings. So leaders just don't have a clue. They're operating on the assumption they're doing a good job. [...]

But a meeting run well actually leaves attendees feeling better about their supervisor, better about their teams. And actually some level of gratitude that their voice mattered."


Three top tips to get the most out of meetings
  1. "First of all, the best meeting leaders definitely recognize that they are inherently a steward of others' time. And that's the mindset that they have. And when you have that mindset, the thought of people leaving your meeting saying it was a waste of time is so bothersome to you that you become intentional with how you run your meetings and you facilitate to make sure everyone has a voice.
  2. Two is I'd love for meeting leaders to think differently about their agendas. Having that agenda in of itself does nothing to make meetings better. And if you really reflect, that's not a surprise, right? It's just a piece of paper. And what matters more is what's on the agenda. And is it relevant and how they facilitate it. So the suggestion that I really like is meeting leaders, framing their agendas as a set of questions to be answered.
  3. Then the third thing is, I'm going to go bigger picture, I want organisations to start taking meetings seriously instead of just assuming that bad meetings are the cost of doing business. I want them to start owning these meetings as a critical organisational practice where they're assessing the effectiveness of it. They've assigned someone on the leadership team, chief meeting officer responsibilities to make sure that this key work process is being handled effectively. [...]

We have to engage the meeting leader and make meetings better . But we also need to think about the broader ecosystem that meetings exist in, and make sure that the ecosystem is inspiring new ways of thinking of meetings ."


Meetings are where organisational democracy comes to life.

Elevating virtual meetings through new tools and opportunities

"I personally believe that COVID has elevated interest in meetings to a level that we have never seen before in meeting science, where now I think people are more dialled in to making sure their meetings are not fatiguing. So I think we're in a good inflection point where greater attention is being given to this critical topic.

We know there's more meetings now than there were pre-COVID. And they do tend to be a little shorter now than they were before COVID. But there are quite a bit more. We also know that there have been some really nice enhancements with regard to tools to make virtual meetings work . In fact, I think we've reached a point where virtual meetings have a great deal more potential than face to face meetings. [...]

I would say the biggest change besides the time that we discussed is that we've added a host of new tools and opportunities through virtual meetings that can absolutely elevate meetings. And the good news is it appears to be happening. Virtual meeting effectiveness is higher than I've ever seen before.

I think a lot of these tools really promote voice and engagement and involvement in a multi dimensional way, whether it's written through chat or voice. You know, if you even think about the setup of a virtual meeting, we don't have to have head of table effects, right? Everyone can see each other equally . I love that. That absolutely helps with the dynamics and flow of information.[...]

The most precious resource everyone has is time. And we need to honour that resource. So by running meetings more effectively, we make better use of that time and by dialling meeting times back a bit, we're able to give back time."

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Prof Dr Steven G Rogelberg
Steven Rogelberg
About the author
Prof. Dr. Steven G. Rogelberg is a professor of organisational science, management, and psychology, as well as the director of organisational science. He has more than 100 publications addressing issues such as team effectiveness, leadership, engagement, and meetings at work.