October 7


Meetings Ground Rules to Make Your Meetings Matter

By Patrick Millerd

October 7, 2020

meeting leader, meetings ground rules, meetings planner, meetings rules, online meetings, rules for meetings

Adopt a few simple meetings ground rules to make your meetings matter. We’ve all attended boring, routine, achieve nothing, waste of time (add all your own gripes here!!) business meetings.

These problems have not improved with the explosion of online meetings ... and maybe have got worse.


So here’s a few ground rules to having better meetings. If you attend meetings that don’t meet these criteria then dump them.

Make Meetings Shorter

Short meetings force no wasted time - small talk is minimised and people get right to the point.

Short meetings need an agendas - people will start the meeting with what they are hoping to achieve or cover and then dive right in. 

Hint: Set your calendar to a default meeting length of 30 minutes.

Appoint a Meeting Leader

Who runs the meeting, owns the outcomes and drives the meeting forward. Makes sure people stay on topic, on time and in focus? 

The leader is the conductor and the attendees are the orchestra.  The leader takes charge and ensures that everyone has a chance to speak, everyone understands the goals for the meeting and allocates tasks and action items. 

Rule: No meetings without a clear meeting leader. Who isn’t always the most senior person in the meeting.

Have an Agenda

All meetings must be structured and have a clear purpose which is understood by all attendees!. 

The meeting leader must prepare the agenda and get other attendees to contribute before the meeting so that everyone starts the meeting prepared.

Calendar invitations are useful if used correctly. With most calendar meeting requests there is an area available for notes. Use it for the meeting agenda. 

Rule: No agenda no meeting. 

Start on Time

No meetings to start late! The meeting owner must take control, start the meeting and move on. This can be difficult to enforce – so cancel a meeting once, piss everyone off and hopefully teach them a lesson. 

Rule: All meetings to start on time.


Conclude all meetings with answers to these two questions: Who does what? By when should this be done? If there are no outcomes or tasks assigned then the meeting was probably a waste of time.

Rule: All meetings to have clear meeting minutes with accountable action items.

Musk’s Meetings Ground Rules

Elon Musk hates meetings. So he created 3 simple meetings ground rules to follow when thinking about meetings: 

  • No large meetings. Or. If they are big, keep them short!
  • If you're not adding value, leave.
  • No frequent meetings.  

Bezos’s 3 Meeting Rules

Like Musk Jeff Bezos also has 3 meeting rules:

"Two pizza" teams.

"We try to create teams that are no larger than can be fed by two pizzas, said Bezos. "We call that the two-pizza team rule."

No PowerPoint.

"No PowerPoints are used inside of Amazon. Somebody for the meeting has prepared a six-page...narratively structured memo. It has real sentences, and topic sentences, and verbs, and nouns--it's not just bullet points."

Start with silence.

"We read those memos, silently, during the meeting," says Bezos. "It's like a study hall. Everybody sits around the table, and we read silently, for usually about half an hour, however long it takes us to read the document. And then we discuss it."

The Result of Having Meeting Rules

There are engaged attendees at meaningful meetings that aren’t seen as a waste of time. Meetings are productive, stimulating, creative with joint problem solving and clear actionable outcomes.

And a last word from Mark Cuban

"I hate meetings. Nobody likes meetings except the people who bring the donuts and the people who like to talk about their kids."

Patrick Millerd

About the author

I support small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners to drive profitability and cash flow, managing the financial health of their business through understanding and using their numbers.
Helping them build a complete management system that puts them in control.

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