Knowledge Worker’s Communication Guide: You don’t need a meeting if (part 7)

I’ve shared some practical tips about how to prepare for, lead, and participate in meetings in my other newsletter. Now let’s look at some principles and frameworks to help us think about meetings.

Why can’t we have good meetings? One reason is because we’re still spending time sitting in bad meetings.

Cancel that meeting if

  • no problem to solve (no one escalated anything)
  • no decision to be made
  • nothing to clarify / get aligned on
  • data on all tools are up to date, and progress are on track
  • no new idea to be developed
  • no changes to be socialised / implemented
  • all info transmitted have been acknowledged (and confirmation of reception is clearly documented, to hold people accountable)
  • changes in behavior are manifested (or you get commitment on it)
  • you still remember what these people look & sound like. you know what is up with their lives (the last time you had watercoolers or 1:1 with them is less than 2 weeks ago)

Do you call a 5-people meeting because you are too ~~lazy~~ busy to catch up on where we are and prefer you can be fed those info? Do you meet just to make sure everything is on track and everyone is ~~working~~ making progress?

Tracking and monitoring progress don’t need to happen synchronously. No I don’t think standups are completely worthless. I think It’s less about broadcasting or transmitting information and more about the morale boost: the sense of camraderie, and maintaining the momentum.

Async all the things?

I’m not saying we should transform all synchronous meetings into asynchronous. I’m saying we should go into a meeting having done all the prep-work, asynchronously.

Conversations are really underrated ways of problem solving and relationship building. There are ideas and thoughts that cannot emerge when you’re thinking on your own — things that can only come from the act of verbalising your thought process and sitting together in a (conceptual) room; have others hold the space, prompting, generating opinions, patching mental puzzles.

How many times have you wished you could just grab everyone into a room, talk something through, and sort out the bits and pieces? How many problems have you seen dragged on because we’re missing one or two people in a meeting and it’s so difficult and sometimes awkward to call another meeting?

Behind one good big meeting there are multiple smaller pre-meeting and preparation work.


One easiest way to ensure good meeting is to circulate a form for participants to fill in before every meeting.

Complete these sentences (multiple answers, separate by comma):

  • at the end of this meeting I’d like to be able to answer / do / know
  • at the end of this meeting I’d like you to know / do / be able to answer
  • at the end of this meeting I’d like us to agree to do x
  • I just miss you folks.

As you might have noticed, a big theme I keep on going back to: it’s difficult to fail if you are clear about your intention.

Meetings agendas

If you are running a convergence meeting, create a meeting note (based on the crowdsourced / prepared agenda) before the meeting even starts. This makes it easier to keep things on track and document the outcome.

If you are running a divergence meeting, appoint a scriber to keep track of what’s been discussed, asked, answered, agreed upon.


To prepare an agenda, consider the following factors:

  • Priorities – what absolutely must be covered?
  • Results – what do you need to accomplish at the meeting?
  • Participants – who needs to attend the meeting for it to be successful?
  • Sequence – in what order will you cover the topics?
  • Timing – how much time will spend on each topic?
  • Date and time – when will the meeting take place?
  • Place – where will the meeting take place?

I highly recommend checking out the full article. It contains really useful sensible tips.




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