What’s worse than a bad meeting? 3 bad meetings…

I’ve been in workshop hell since Tuesday. Still trying to shake off the remnants of whatever bug(s) have been dragging me down all month, the last thing I really wanted to do was pack my overnight bag and spend three consecutive days in all-day workshops.

To be fair, the workshops themselves were necessary (a minor plus point) so that’s not really my complaint. My complaint is that when, as a meeting organiser, you drag a large number of people across the country from a range of locations you should work hard to get your meetings right.


“Put lots of people into a room for long spells and their behaviours regress to something approaching teen angst.”


These meetings failed the basic quality test:

Unsuitable room

20 people crammed into a room that can comfortably hold 15 is a recipe for disaster. How can you possibly explain why a suitable room wasn’t booked when the meeting was in diaries weeks in advance?

Poor facilitation

For some reason when you put lots of people into a room for long spells their behaviours regress to something approaching teen angst. Tough love is the only answer: Keep a tight rein and assert your authority when things start to break down (and they always do).

I’ve been sat listening to grown adults bickering, talking over each other and having secret little side conversations, all unchecked by the facilitator. FAIL.

Poor support material

I appreciate that sometimes the material has to be “hot off the press”. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for it to be wrong. Fundamental errors in your documentation cause debate, confusion and undermine confidence in the overall quality of the meeting.

Lack of clarity about the meeting objectives

The initial workshop started with several slides of ‘meeting rules’, which essentially laid out the presenter’s expectations of the meeting. Unfortunately there was no discussion or validation of these rules, meaning that whilst the presenter not challenged on them (he had achieved compliance) his audience had not fully absorbed and bought into them (he lacked commitment).

The first 30-60 minutes of a big workshop sets the tone and establishes momentum; get a discussion going that gets everybody’s thinking aligned and brains into gear.

On the plus side, the meetings did finish on time and the food was ok, so not a complete bust.

How do you ensure your big meetings make the grade? Join the discusion and comment below.

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