Guila Muir

Developing trainers, presenters and facilitators to make a difference

Improve Meetings When You’re Not in Charge

Do meeting participants have any responsibility beyond showing up, reporting, and trying to sound reasonably on top of things? Here’s my guiding principle:

When we decide against trying to influence the quality of a meeting, we make the choice to live with the consequences.

I understand that challenging a meeting leader can be difficult, especially when that person is your boss or a senior manager. However, by not speaking up, you accept badly-run, ineffective meetings. It’s your choice.

Small Acts of Courage

If you decide to intervene, you may not be successful. But doing so is a valuable first step. It may also help create a safer environment for other participants to speak up.

Consider these two levels of intervention.


Toss a pebble into the meeting, and watch the ripples. This gentle intervention may be all you need.


After several minutes of unfocused talk, ask “Does this issue need to be put on the agenda?” or “What meeting outcome are we discussing right now? “Let’s make sure our discussion helps to achieve that.” “Let’s get back on track.”

You can ask the facilitator beforehand if they mind if you introduce the idea of “pebbles” to the group. You can also check your pebble with the facilitator after the meeting. You may be surprised how grateful they are for your support.


Consider tossing in a rock if the ripples went nowhere. Rocks often take the form of one-on-one communication with the facilitator outside the meeting. The gentler and more direct, the more effective the rock.


  1. Suggest that the group have a meaningful discussion of what works well and what could be improved. This can occur in real time or through a survey.
  2. Offer the leader an easy meeting process assessment checklist or survey for everyone to use. Create one using Survey Monkey or another tool.
  3. Suggest that two minutes be saved on each call to assess how the meeting went.

Remember, “geological change” takes time.

What Will You Do?

With the amount of time and energy that meetings demand, it’s crucial to remember that even if you’re not in charge, you can contribute to a meeting’s effectiveness. What will YOU do the next time you’re in a meeting that’s going nowhere?

Thanks to Nancy Bacon for suggesting I write this post.

Learn the skills to lead stellar online meetings.


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