How to make meetings better

It’s up to you to make meetings more effective. Here are four ideas.


“That meeting was a colossal waste of time!” 

We’ve all felt that way and complained about the occasional meeting, conference, or training session that was worthless. We probably went on and on about it to a significant other or to a peer at work, blowing off steam, and then dug in and went back to work to get some real work done, frustrated with the knowledge that we’d be working later as a result of wasting that time.

Is there an alternative? There is, but it is up to you to make it happen. How? 

Consider making this your mantra: Make everything you touch a little better for your having been involved. In other words, don’t let that type of meeting happen—do something about it. That’s a tough challenge, seemingly impossible in some cases, but here are some ideas on how you may be able to accomplish this, and in the process, lower your frustration and improve any organization to which you belong. 

Scenario 1: You’re suffering through a meeting that has no purpose.

Ask, “What is the goal of this meeting?” It can be a gentle reminder that the meeting may be off track. Pointing this out can help bring some leadership to the discussion. 

Scenario 2: You’re invited to a future meeting that you think will be a waste of time.

Ask the person requesting the meeting: “As a result of gathering us together, what is your ideal outcome of this meeting?” This enables you to proactively work with that person to help guide the meeting and help him make it clear to participants ahead of time what is expected. If the meeting requester stumbles on that question and can’t clearly articulate an answer, you can be a sounding board for him/her. You might also be able to help that person focus if he/she has not thought the meeting through ahead of time. Sometimes people call a meeting to check it off the list or to please someone else—without thinking through what outcome is really desired. 

Scenario 3: You’re at a conference.

If it’s really bad, leave. If it’s adequate but you’re bored, force yourself to list the top two or three things you can take away from the conference. If you can’t come up with anything and the format allows asking questions, ask ones that will help you accomplish your goal.

Scenario 4: You’re attending a training session.

If the real-world applicability of a training session is in doubt, ask the instructor for clarification. Clearly there are many different types of training situations, but don’t hesitate to ask questions that will help make the training relevant to you. You’re there for a reason; figure out what that reason is and make sure the training accomplishes it. 

Quantify your time and the time of those around you. Use whatever figure is appropriate, but look at the time spent in terms of real money. For example, an engineer with average work experience of three years may average $75,000 in salary plus $15,000 in benefits annually. That’s $45/hour times the number of people you have in the meeting; for five people, that’s $225/hour that’s being wasted, not including travel if that was required.

Do your part—it’s up to you to make the situation better by being involved. Don’t wait for someone else to make it make sense; don’t passively let it happen and complain about it later. Practicing these tips will make you an invaluable member of any team, any time. It’s up to you! 


John Suzukida was Trane’s senior VP of global marketing and strategy prior to founding Lanex Consulting in 2002, which focuses on energy efficiency, product-to-solutions transitions, and strategy. He has facilitated meetings for the West Coast Zero Net Energy Coordinating Council, Daikin, Danfoss, and the National Conference on Building Commissioning, and has written articles for industry publications. He is a presenter at the 2012 Career Smart Engineers Conference.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.