Meetings get a bad rep, writes Bill Graham, head of estates at BEC.

We’ve all been in the “meeting that never ended”, “the meeting about a meeting” and “the meeting where we discussed everything but the agenda”.

Let’s face it – you’ve probably been in more bad than productive meetings.

But meetings are something we have to learn how to get good at.

At Westlakes Science Park, we host a lot of them.

Across nine different dedicated spaces, we welcome hundreds of people each week into our meeting rooms, all with the hopes of achieving something productive.

Apart from that one guy who only ever shows up for the biscuits.

I’ve been chatting to my facilities management colleagues and we’ve pulled together our top tips for awesome meetings.

  • Agenda, agenda, agenda

It might sound a bit obvious but it’s always amazing how many people show up to meetings without a clear idea of what they are expected to contribute and achieve. Vague discussion achieves very little.

Hosts: Write your agenda with as much notice as you can. Resend it 24 hours before and flag any substantial prep work people need to do. Indicate clear timings and outcomes wherever possible.

Delegates: Read the agenda, check if you need to prep anything. Do your prep work in good time – flag with the host if you can’t. Make sure your agenda copy is to hand, in paper or digitally.

  • Take a reality check

Everyone plays a different role in a meeting. Some are interchangeable.

Lost your minute taker? Ask someone else with experience to volunteer.

Only have two out of three of the project team? That’s okay, they can probably cover most of the salient points.

Person who needs to sign everything off before progress can be made been pulled into another meeting? Pause.

Hosts: Make sure key people know how important their attendance is. Keep an eye on shifting diary responses.

Be brave and make the tough decision if you need to.

Sure, it can be embarrassing (even when it’s not your fault) but it’s better to release people’s time back to them then have them waste it in an unproductive meeting.

Delegates: Do everything you can to attended. Be respectful of the host and other delegates' time. Give as much notice of change as you can.

  • Tick tock, live by the clock

This is a simple but golden rule.

When you have set those times against agenda items stick to them.

Hosts and delegates should refresh themselves with the aims of the meeting when it starts and the time they have for each agenda item.

Hosts: Be brave and bold. Unless someone has bought up something sensitive or truly game changing, move people along to keep time on track.

Delegates: Play an active role in supporting the host to keep good time.

  • Agenda stealers? Park it!

Have you ever heard of the Parking Lot rule? As the name suggests, this one originated over the pond and it’s really valuable.

When meetings slip off agenda they can become very unfocused.

But what do you do when someone is talking about something off agenda but really important?

Put it in the Parking Lot. Keep a list of all the things that get raised but do not serve the original purpose of the meeting.

Hosts: You have to be forward in using this rule.

It’s okay to tell someone that their new topic goes beyond the original purpose of the meeting, but that you’ll capture it in the notes so it can be explored by relevant parties at another (more appropriate) time.

Delegates: Consider what you are saying. Is now the right time for it? If not but you are worried you’ll forget, ask the host to park it for later.

  • Circle back

The end of the meeting, and the time that follows it, are just as important at the meeting.

After all, if it was important enough for you to travel and take time from your day, it’s important enough to finish on the right note so don’t just make a run for the door when the last items close.

Hosts: Track actions and key notes as you go and summarise them at the end so everyone is clear what they agree to.

Don’t presume they’ll remember, take responsibility for sending a wrap-up of actions and next steps in writing – ideally within 24 hours.

Delegates: Don’t let your mind drift off to the traffic or your lunch at a meeting's close. Listen carefully to the actions.

Did you agree to that? Is it realistic? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

  • Take it offsite and outside

Meetings can be a bit like an old sofa and start sagging in the middle.

When tired faces, low energy, and lack of ideas start – it’s a sign that it’s time to take the meeting outside.

Sometimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed for bringing energy and good ideas back to the table.

After the meeting, follow up on your team if they enjoyed the change of pace and found it constructive. If not, try something else – it’s never a complete waste of time!

Westlakes Science Park has nine meeting rooms that seat two to 40 people and we even have a boardroom with a balcony overlooking the Lake District fells.

With free parking, video/phone conferencing and smart boards together with trusty flip charts and pens and tasty refreshments – we have everything you need for a productive, efficient meeting.

Our landscaped grounds, with picnic benches and trails also offer the perfect meeting break location.

  • You can book by calling us on 01945 595200 or visit: