Immutable Law of Speed #12
“The way meetings are run sets the drumbeat for the organization.”
— from Alan Willett’s LEAD WITH SPEED

I have written before about drummers and how crucial they are in setting the pace for band performances.

Meetings are the drumline of an organization. They set the beat.

Multiple people have emailed, called, and sent morse code messages to me with one key plea – fix our drummer.

When meetings are bad they need fixing. And since the vast majority of us are now in remote meetings, the need for running them well has been seriously amplified.

Here are 12 rules for leaders running online meetings.

  1. As a facilitator, be well prepared for the meeting. Be clear about what you want to accomplish. Make it clear to everyone. Always have an agenda.  
  2. Vary the rhythm.  Do not just hold status meetings.  Hold check-in meetings to see how people are doing. Hold meetings to get work done, and actually build things together. Vary the beat. 
  3. Use technology that makes it possible to see all the people who have joined the meeting. If an attendee has to call in and cannot be “seen”, ensure that they announce themselves.
  4. Use the chat feature for people to make comments, ask questions, or send notes to each other.  Make sure at the start of the meeting that all attendees know to use this feature. This helps prevent everyone from talking over each other.
  5. As the facilitator, make sure you periodically call on everyone for their opinions.  Note: If you have more than 10 attendees, what you are running is more like a Webinar. For large meetings, you’ll be depending even more heavily on the chat feature.
  6. Use video unless the bandwidth does not support it. In that case, turn off the video. This should be obvious but I have had too many reports that say we should make this rule clear.
  7. Mute everyone except the speaker.  Background noise during in-person meetings is typical and ignored. In the conference call setting, it is often unbearable.  Do not make everyone suffer through chewing, barking dogs, and the notorious bathroom breaks people think they took in secret.  It is your job as the leader to tell everyone to mute – or do it for them.
  8. For large meetings, have technology that enables breakout rooms.  Use them. Allow people to do some small group work.
  9. Add periodic spice to the meetings. Make a judgment about your audience and what will help to lighten the mood. Some people use “theme” music to move between topics. Others encourage a snack break and have a quick share of what snacks they are enjoying.
  10. Listen to your inner music. Do you think the meetings are working well? Remember that YOU can fix them.
  11. Get the right technology to be able to run your meetings well.  The technology should support all the rules I am listing. It is worth the investment.
  12. Check-in with meeting participants to get their ideas on how to make the meetings work better. 

You won’t be leading every meeting you attend. But not being the meeting leader doesn’t let you off the hook.

As a participant, you have one crucial rule. If you don’t think a remote meeting you attended worked well, talk to the meeting leader after the meeting about your concerns. They can’t fix it if they don’t know it is broken.

One more rule for all of us. Lead meetings with joy. We are all in this together.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

PS:  There is still time to get bonus gifts with your  LEAD WITH SPEED orders.  Check them out here.

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