I’m thinking about writing a book about technical project meetings at software companies and ways I’ve found to make them better. To see if I have enough to work with I’m going to kick off a series of blog posts exploring different aspects of meetings based on my experiences.

If you see something I’ve missed or you think I should address, I’d value your comment.

If you’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of attending any of the meetings I facilitate–tell me the techniques I used that you thought were effective and those that weren’t.

Feel free to use a fake name if revealing your name would put you in a compromising position.

On with thirteen ways to have a bad meeting

  1. Invite anyone that wants to come or is remotely connected to the topic or might need to know about the topic.

  2. Invite the wrong people.

  3. Never tell someone they can’t attend your meeting or need to stop coming.

  4. Don’t share or prepare an agenda in advance.

  5. Don’t document anything that happens at the meeting. Just assume that everyone has a good memory and will remember the outcome of the discussion and what needs to happen next.

  6. Hold a status meeting that could have been done by email . Go around in a circle to learn about what what each person is working on while everyone else does something else or furiously prepares for their turn.

  7. Ignore the clock. Don’t set an end time or time-box particular topics. Just talk and talk until you all feel like you are done.

  8. Surprise the attendees by dropping a bomb on the meeting with a large or controversial topic nobody has had time to think about or prepare for. Bonus points for dropping it ten minutes before the top of the hour when everyone has to run to another meeting.

  9. As the facilitator, surrender the meeting to the strongest personalities in the room and let them drive the flow of discussion.

  10. Never ask what the next steps are towards solving a complicated problem or who owns resolving it.

  11. Meet because “we’ve always met.” It’s more important to maintain tradition.

  12. Tell someone “it’s okay” when they’ve repeatedly missed their deliverables or often arrive late, disrupting the meeting.

  13. As the facilitator, never ask the attendees for their honest feedback (publicly or privately) about how your meetings could be better or more valuable.

Now it’s your turn. What else should be on this list?