How to hold successful meetings in as little as 10 steps | Inquirer Business

How to hold successful meetings in as little as 10 steps

/ 02:02 AM February 06, 2023


A lot of our clients in the Philippines and Asia ask us for guidelines and protocols on how to run more effective meetings. I would call most Filipino meetings we have attended “death by PowerPoint.” One of our clients, the president of a large, well-known family business in the Philippines, requested our support to pivot and future-proof his business. As part of our partnership, we took a deep dive into how effective his meetings were. It was a disaster.


The president came from a much-needed vacation only to find himself completely drained after the first three days. In one of the meetings he attended, we counted 32 people and during the meeting, only three spoke!

This is typical: too many meetings, too many PowerPoint slides, too many people per meeting and meetings that are too long. This runs like an epidemic through the region and is costing a lot of executives, board members, CEOs and business owners enormous amounts of wasted time.


Everything needs to be customized

Here I will share some general guidelines and protocols our clients have found very beneficial to make sure your meetings become more productive. But your business is unique. Solutions for your business must be unique and customized for them to work.

While general meeting guidelines and protocols are very valuable, in the end, they have to be customized to your business. We recently spent two and a half hours in a workshop with one of our clients to tailor their daily huddle protocols exactly to their needs. Why? Because this was a crucial part of their daily execution. The result? Their productivity soared and everyone ended up having a lot more time.

Do not confuse being “busy” with “getting things done”

As a business leader, time is your most precious asset. It is the one thing you will never get back. Another one of our clients in the region, a very promising entrepreneur with a lot of energy, did a lot of meetings because they made him feel good. He had the sense that things were getting done when he had meetings. That was an illusion.

Mostly, they were a waste of his and everyone else’s time. In line with the Asian practice of sugarcoating and avoiding direct confrontation, executives were afraid to tell him. In the meetings, things were not getting done, people were just talking about them.

The WFWS disease

A lot of companies and executives slip into the WFWS or “work for work’s sake” disease. That is different from “getting things done” and producing results. Confuse the two and you might find yourself on the losing end.

Fifty-two percent of the Fortune 500 companies from 2000 are no longer in existence. A Fortune 500 company’s life expectancy used to be 75 years. Today, it is less than 15.

As a business leader, your job is to create a machine that produces outcomes. A business is like a machine. It needs to have a clear design to produce specific outcomes.


Every meeting should produce clear results and outcomes, not just talking heads. Do you want to get together with your colleagues for an idle chat? Great. Then have a drink together. But not at the office.

Who should be there?

Most companies invite far too many people to a meeting. They also often invite the same kind of people to every similar-sounding meeting. For example, for everything that sounds like a management committee or board-related matter, all management committee members or board members are invited. That is a bad practice because it is ineffective. You should only invite the people who can meaningfully contribute and who are needed to produce the stated goal and outcome of the meeting.

Jeff Bezos, for example, limits attendance at Amazon meetings to only a handful of people. Steve Jobs did not believe that more was always better. He had a reputation for just inviting the required people into the room. Too many people ruined the simplicity that Jobs thrived on.

It all starts with “why”

Before a meeting is called, somebody needs to be in charge of the meeting. That person has to invite the relevant people to the meeting, clearly state the purpose. What outcome are we aiming to produce? What is the goal of the meeting? Who should be part of the meeting? Why are they needed? The “why” is the most important part that is often forgotten.

When should a meeting end?

Sheryl Sandberg, the American billionaire who was the chief operating officer of Meta Platforms, prepares a handwritten list of topics for discussion for each meeting. Even if the meeting was only for eight minutes, it ends once everything on the list has been completed. Meetings are kept brief and straightforward. No idle chit-chat.

Sandberg has also coined one of my favorite phrases, “done is better than perfect.” She explains her famous motto by saying, “Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.” In my experience with our clients, long and unnecessary meetings often reflect a sense of perfectionism, of not trying to make any mistakes, of seeking 100 percent information before taking action. You cannot have 100 percent certainty. Look for it and you will fail.

Money seeks movement. Focus on getting things done in meetings, not on getting things to perfection, which is an unattainable standard that slows companies down.

One of our Asian clients told us their own story of too many meetings. The owner had a great idea for a new product, but the execution of the idea got lost in so many meetings, discussions, committees and PowerPoints that the competition launched the same product months before them. Bang! Opportunity gone.

Stand up and ditch the phone

Do you want a dramatic reduction in your company’s average meeting duration and at the same time boost results? Try to hold meetings standing up. Standup meetings have been demonstrated to increase group productivity in addition to reducing meeting duration by 34 percent.

In general, taking meetings standing up is an excellent practice because you force yourself to be concise and avoid “topic slip.”

We know this is hard but ideally, there should be no cell phones during meetings. To make this easier, remember: the faster the meeting is done, the sooner you can get to your phone and attend to whatever needs to be done.

10 steps

  • Define who will be running the meeting.
  • Define the purpose/objectives of the meeting.
  • Define who should be in the meeting and why.
  • Clarify the purpose to everybody who is attending.
  • Limit the total meeting time. If you are done before the time is up, end the meeting early.
  •  If you can, hold meetings standing up.
  • Invite feedback and engage in constructive disagreements—the results will be better. In the Philippines, use our invention of the “rotating devil’s advocate” —people must take turns in expressing disagreement.
  • Make sure the meeting achieves the defined purpose/objectives.
  • Make sure one person writes meeting notes and distributes them to all parties after the meeting.
  • Ideally, one person follows up on the action points of the meeting. This person sees to it that the recommendations are carried out. INQ

Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: or email [email protected]

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