Project Management

How to Avoid Useless Meetings

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Peter Tarhanidis
Conrado Morlan
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Christian Bisson
Yasmina Khelifi
Sree Rao
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
David Wakeman
Ramiro Rodrigues
Wanda Curlee
Lenka Pincot
cyndee miller
Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres
Marat Oyvetsky

Past Contributors:

Rex Holmlin
Vivek Prakash
Dan Goldfischer
Linda Agyapong
Jim De Piante
Siti Hajar Abdul Hamid
Bernadine Douglas
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Kelley Hunsberger
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
Saira Karim
Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

Recent Posts

3 Agile Disconnects We Need to Address

What to Expect: Anticipating and Adapting to Dynamic Economic Trends

Governance Models: The Secret to Successful Agile Projects

3 Valuable PM Lessons I Learned in 2023

The 4 P’s of Successful Modern PMs


2020, Adult Development, Agile, Agile, Agile, agile, Agile management, Agile management, Agile;Community;Talent management, Artificial Intelligence, Backlog, Basics, Benefits Realization, Best Practices, BIM, Business Analysis, Business Analysis, Business Case, Business Transformation, Calculating Project Value, Canvas, Career Development, Career Development, Categories: Career Help, Change Management, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communication, Complexity, Conflict, Conflict Management, Consulting, Continuous Learning, Cost, COVID-19, Crises, Crisis Management, critical success factors, Cultural Awareness, Culture, Decision Making, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, digital transformation, Digitalisation, Disruption, Diversity, Documentation, Earned Value Management, Education, EEWH, Enterprise Risk Management, Escalation management, Estimating, Ethics, execution, Expectations Management, Facilitation, feasibility studies, Future, Future of Project Management, Generational PM, Governance, Government, green building, Growth, Horizontal Development, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Inclusion, Innovation, Intelligent Building, International, Internet of Things (IOT), Internet of Things (IoT), IOT, IT Project Management, IT Strategy, Knowledge, Leadership, lean construction, LEED, Lessons Learned, Lessons learned;Retrospective, Managing for Stakeholders, managing stakeholders as clients, Mentoring, Methodology, Metrics, Micromanagement, Microsoft Project PPM, Motivation, Negotiation, Neuroscience, neuroscience, New Practitioners, Nontraditional Project Management, OKR, Online Learning, opportunity, Organizational Project Management, Pandemic, People, People management, Planing, planning, PM & the Economy, PM History, PM Think About It, PMBOK Guide, PMI, PMI EMEA 2018, PMI EMEA Congress 2017, PMI EMEA Congress 2019, PMI Global Conference 2017, PMI Global Conference 2018, PMI Global Conference 2019, PMI Global Congress 2010 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2011 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2011 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2012 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2012 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2013 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2013 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2014 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2014 - North America, PMI GLobal Congress EMEA 2018, PMI PMO Symposium 2012, PMI PMO Symposium 2013, PMI PMO Symposium 2015, PMI PMO Symposium 2016, PMI PMO Symposium 2017, PMI PMO Symposium 2018, PMI Pulse of the Profession, PMO, pmo, PMO Project Management Office, portfolio, Portfolio Management, portfolio management, Portfolios (PPM), presentations, Priorities, Probability, Problem Structuring Methods, Process, Procurement, profess, Program Management, Programs (PMO), project, Project Delivery, Project Dependencies, Project Failure, project failure, Project Leadership, Project Management, project management, project management office, Project Planning, project planning, Project Requirements, Project Success, Ransomware, Reflections on the PM Life, Remote, Remote Work, Requirements Management, Research Conference 2010, Researching the Value of Project Management, Resiliency, Risk, Risk Management, Risk management, risk management, ROI, Roundtable, Salary Survey, Scheduling, Scope, Scrum, search, SelfLeadership, Servant Leadership, Sharing Knowledge, Social Responsibility, Sponsorship, Stakeholder, Stakeholder Management, stakeholder management, Strategy, swot, Talent Management, Talent Management Leadership SelfLeadership Collaboration Communication, Taskforce, Team Building, Teams, Teams in Agile, Teams in Agile, teamwork, Tech, Technical Debt, Technology, TED Talks, The Project Economy, Time, Timeline, Tools, tools, Transformation, transformation, Transition, Trust, Value, Vertical Development, Volunteering, Volunteering #Leadership #SelfLeadership, Volunteering Sharing Knowledge Leadership SelfLeadership Collaboration Trust, VUCA, Women in PM, Women in Project Management


By Christian Bisson, PMP

Whether for workshops, stakeholder interviews, a requirements gathering session or some other activity, sometimes you have to plan a full day of meetings (or multiple days). These meetings might be with various people throughout the day or with the same stakeholders throughout. Regardless, it’s important to plan them appropriately to get the most out of everyone’s time.

Here are a few steps to ensure meeting attendees don’t head out of the office feeling like they wasted a day.

1) Have a detailed agenda

Although this applies to every meeting, it’s especially important when planning a whole day (or days). This means breaking the days into the different relevant sessions, specifying who will attend and when, and detailing the purpose of each session.

2) Plan enough time

Just like with a project schedule, if the duration only looks good on paper, you will regret it later. Make sure to have enough time for each session. Don’t think “we’ll have to make it fit”—it most likely will not. Then you’ll have to cut short a session at the last minute to accommodate.

3) Don’t skimp on breaks

If you don’t include time for any breaks, thinking this will allow more to get done, you‘ll be wrong. People will likely take breaks anyway because they are tired, thirsty or need to go to the bathroom. If they don’t take breaks, attendees will be severely tired or uncomfortable. As the day progresses, sessions will become less and less efficient. Plan either five minutes of break per hour or 10 minutes per two hours.

4) Plan a meet-and-greet or introduction

Always plan 15 minutes at the beginning of the day for various ad hoc elements, including: people presenting themselves, introducing the day’s agenda or a session starting a few minutes late. If everyone is on time, and everyone knows each other, you might need just five minutes.

5) Limit the number of attendees

The more attendees in a meeting, the more chance the agenda goes off track. Obviously it’s important to try to avoid this, but if 20 people are attending the meeting, that can be a seriously tall order. Short of being very strict (which you might not want to be with a client), the meeting will most run over its allotted time.

So scheduler beware: some, if not most, meetings with too many attendees will bring no added value and will be wasting people’s time (and money!). Ideally, a meeting should be limited to about six people.

Have any more tips to share?

Posted by Christian Bisson on: May 17, 2016 08:07 PM | Permalink

Comments (18)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Rami Kaibni Senior Projects Manager | Field & Marten Associates New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
I agree, It is always best to have meeting ground rules ... The meeting will be more fruitful.

Ahmad Tarmizee Kamarul Zaman Manager| ABeam Consulting (M) Sdn Bhd Shah Alam,, Selangor, Malaysia
Good point

Anupam India
Great guidelines. I will add Meeting Minutes at the end.

Maria Lenny Vadillo Santa Cruz De La Sierra, Santa Cruz, Bolivia (Plurinational State of)
I agree, and before the start of the meeting, it should communicate these premises to participants.

Wendy Finley Project Manager| Oregon Department of Education Salem, Or, USA
Great steps. I also like to ensure that everyone understands the meeting objectives and what the expected outcomes are at the start of the meeting.

Benyamin Tedjakusuma Jakarta, Indonesia
Good stuffs. I agree with point 1 and 5. One of the issues with agenda, however, is that people tend to speak ideas suddenly pop up that seems to be related to a current discussion but actually part of other agenda. People also have tendency to talk beyond the given topic. I have had meetings with 40 or more people and it is not so much effective.

I think another point is to ensure that the meeting is moderated properly as to stick with the agenda. Also, agreeing on meeting objective(s) may limit the discussion to achieve the objective and leave other non relevant topics for another discussion.

David Hardcastle Project Manager| Cap gemini Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom
I like to send out the agenda with the meeting invitations. That way everyone knows what to expect from their attendance and can prepare any questions in advance.

Christian Bisson Scrum Master| Levio Sainte-Julie, Quebec, Canada
Thank you everyone for your comments.

David, I agree, sending the agenda prior is always a good idea to prepare attendees. Also, if time permits, you can ask that people share if they have any more items to add to the agenda.

Benyamin, fair point, there must always be room for flexibility, and it is indeed a challenge when a topic last longer than planned but the discussion still is very relevant. In these cases the meeting could be extended if attendees are available, or a follow-up meeting could be planned to either finish that one topic that lasts longer, or to go through topics that have been put aside.


Linda Miller Project Management Huntington, Ny, USA
Planning is key. I also think that time keeping is important. There have been many meetings I have attended that have overrun because the facilitator has failed to keep attendees on point and relevant.

Jason Belanger Consultant| JB Consulting Tustin, Ca, USA
Great points here. Planning is crucial. I recommend adding that attendees be asked to leave their laptops and cell phones outside the meeting.

Christian Bisson Scrum Master| Levio Sainte-Julie, Quebec, Canada
Great point Jason, any distractions should be left outside a meeting.

Daniella Castelucci de Medeiros Program and Project Manager| Amazon UK Ilford, Sp, Brazil
Very nice article.
I have taken the 'Facilitation Skills for Project Managers' webinar last week and this article complements it very well.

Christian Bisson Scrum Master| Levio Sainte-Julie, Quebec, Canada
Thanks Daniella, I'm curious to listen to that webinar, would you mind sending the link?

Madeline Harris Vice President, Senior Project Manager Comerica Securities| Comerica Bank Bloomfield Hills, Mi, USA
Don't forget the summary before closing, with decisions made and actions that need to be taken (and by whom).

Marco De Santis Project Management Office, PMP| Telecom Italia Information Technology (TI.IT) s.r. Rome, Italy, Rome, Italy
I'd like to add, at the very beginning, to setup/refresh the groud rules that all the attendees have to RESPECT during the meeting

Silvina Aceto PM Specialist| Telefonica Buenos Aires, Argentina
Very good article!
I agree, sending the agenda prior is the key, to have an focused and succesfull meeting

Mayte Mata-Sivera Head of PMO| Confidential Ut, USA
Nice article, fix the ground rules are key to a have a great meeting.

Christian Bisson Scrum Master| Levio Sainte-Julie, Quebec, Canada
Thank you for your comment Maria.

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.


"How much deeper would the ocean be if sponges didn't live there?"

- Steven Wright