100 Recommendations for Making Meetings Beautiful

From emotional check-ins to laughter quotas and more

Let’s make meetings better. Less staring at yourself on Zoom, more silence and movement — and freedom to speak to what really matters.

In our latest Resident Circle, a monthly check-in with members of the House of Beautiful Business community, we turned this lofty goal into concrete action. First, an off-the-record rant about what we hate about meetings (and these kinds of co-workers) and then a real-time, Google Doc-powered brainstorming session that resulted in 100 recommendations for making meetings more beautiful. Picture two 15-min. slots, first as 1:1s, then in groups of five, with a 3-min. break in-between, live-music, a pinch of poise — and fun!

Before you join your next meeting, have a read-through. See what the repetition is saying (or not saying).

Even better: before you schedule your next, ask yourself: does this really require a meeting?

Meet our community and their House Work projects, exploring topics like ingredients for a beautiful work life, the metrics of beautiful business, and 10 moral questions for tech leaders at Concrete Love, at this year’s House of Beautiful Business signature gathering, taking place from October 29-November 26 in Lisbon and online.

  1. Make a meeting physical again.
  2. Ask “why are we gathering?” Pick a specific reason.
  3. Don’t meet if there is nothing to discuss.
  4. Name the meeting, or the question to be discussed.
  5. Calculate how long the meeting will actually take and then book the meeting for the correct amount of time.
  6. A 2-minute silence to start the meeting.
  7. Mindful opening meditation.
  8. Mindful opening check-in.
  9. Start the meeting with each person talking about a recent success.
  10. Emotional check-in at the start of each meeting.
  11. Have a quiet reflection before to clear the clutter, and after to ground everyone.
  12. Only invite people who actually need to be there, and don’t invite people who don’t need to be there.
  13. Only invite essential attendees.
  14. Invite someone who is not one of the usual invitees.
  15. If the leader is just going to make their own decision without actually considering input from the people in the meeting, don’t have the meeting.
  16. What actually is a meeting? Define the threshold.
  17. Have a CMC — Chief Meeting Commander — that alternates for the meeting. (Or maybe a host instead of commander?)
  18. Build more human connection into the meeting experience.
  19. Invite someone who is not one of the usual invitees.
  20. Set the tone/vibe.
  21. Work and socializing are interconnected and overlap, and this allows for shared accomplishment.
  22. Meet for social reasons or community strengthening, and make this clear ahead of time that it’s the purpose.
  23. Meetings should be clear and focused.
  24. Make the meeting as short as possible and on-point.
  25. Make all meetings 45 minutes long.
  26. Meetings no longer than 30–60 minutes max.
  27. It’s OK to have a five-minute call as a group (or huddle).
  28. Join early; get to know each other and talk about any topic.
  29. Have a meeting goal.
  30. Be clear on the contribution required.
  31. Be clear about everyone’s role in the meeting.
  32. Clearly define the desired outcomes.
  33. Declare ahead of time if cameras will be on or off.
  34. Send an agenda ahead of time.
  35. Agenda for every meeting.
  36. Pre-approved rules of engagement, i.e. how the meeting will be conducted.
  37. Have meetings that help nourish team relationships.
  38. Empower people during the meeting to express the best of themselves.
  39. Create a secure environment for everybody to express themselves without judgement.
  40. Clear leader/facilitator and roles.
  41. Treat a meeting like a conversation with a friend.
  42. Location location location.
  43. Permission for people to be in the environment they want to be in when taking the call (switch camera on/off, mute, etc), while also taking responsibility for being heard/seen and understood.
  44. Offer hybrid meetings when appropriate (option for physical or remote, provide the choice).
  45. More meetings in nature.
  46. Background pictures.
  47. Plan for walking meetings.
  48. Meeting where we move or walk intentionally (i.e. stretch).
  49. The mental and emotional presence of each member of the meeting.
  50. An expectation to be mentally present when taking part in the meeting (vs. multitasking multiple other things), with permission to leave as needed.
  51. Call out people taking other calls.
  52. Allow openness for people not able to fully engage. Make it safe for people to say that they’re working / distracted and just listening in.
  53. Set clear expectations for the meeting. Is it for brainstorming, reviewing, or decision-making?
  54. A presentation for the meeting, presenting the topics (one to two slides).
  55. Not all meetings need a presentation (we don’t need to talk to bullet points).
  56. Take regular breaks.
  57. Have enough breaks!
  58. Breaks for meetings more than 60 minutes long.
  59. Stay on the defined topic, with off-topic subjects deferred.
  60. Cut people off (gently and politely) if they are talking about other topics because you lose time and effort trying to gain understanding from everybody.
  61. Make space for irrelevant topics.
  62. Create space for multiple ideas and perspectives.
  63. Seek to understand everyone’s perspective.
  64. Acknowledge the unexpected.
  65. Allow moments of silence.
  66. Allow moments of singing.
  67. Allow moments of playfulness!
  68. Dance more!
  69. Laugh more. Have a laugh quota. Set a goal around the amount of laughter per meeting.
  70. Music by Mark Aanderud.
  71. Don’t ask inauthentic questions just to be polite.
  72. Balance between purpose-driven leadership and shared, collective participation.
  73. Balance between effectiveness and space for serendipity.
  74. Provide social glue to create a more conducive environment for team work.
  75. You can brainstorm without taking notes.
  76. Be mindful of introvert/extrovert tendencies and needs.
  77. Don’t force people to talk/participate if they don’t want to.
  78. Moderation to rotate opinions and conversation to all attendees, and not just let it be monopolized by a few.
  79. Impromptu invites. Someone comes up? Will they help? Invite them to join! This is maybe something special about digital meetings.
  80. Humor, levity, and perspective help.
  81. Pet show and tell. Anyone with a dog or cat needs to introduce them to the team.
  82. More conversation vs. a breakdown of tasks or to-dos.
  83. Use a meeting canvas like Miro board or FigJam or Jam Board.
  84. Learn how to use the platforms!
  85. “The parking lot” for any topics that matter to the team, but to be discussed separately, not in the current meeting.
  86. Meetings with no to little work to be done after the meeting, i.e. get the work done in the meeting.
  87. Crash a meeting! See folks you know? Walk in and see what’s up!
  88. Allow for “mulligans” in the event people break the rules or don’t follow protocols.
  89. At the end (last presentation slide before “thank you”), a slide listing who is doing what and when (and when it’s due).
  90. Kitchen conversation.” During a party, people gather in the kitchen. Reserve some time at the end of a meeting to reflect on the team and yourself and relationship-related stuff (and not work/project stuff).
  91. Enjoy the freedom to end the meeting when the time is right (which may be before the scheduled end).
  92. Clarity check at the end of each meeting. Have clear takeaways.
  93. Mindful closing.
  94. If you know action items are not complete, or you’re not ready for the meeting, postpone it instead of wasting everyone’s time.
  95. Train each other. Have an “async week.” Remove all 1:1s and team meetings from the calendar and learn to check-in asynchronously (either via chat apps or collaborative docs).
  96. Allow blocked space on calendars for no meetings — a “no-meeting zone.”
  97. Key time slots for team meetings, including “black-out times” (i.e. no meetings times).
  98. Set aside one day per week to be meeting-free.
  99. Virtual water-cooler. Have “Remote Office Hours.”
  100. Stop having so many meetings.

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