How to Run a Bad Meeting

By Heather Baldwin

You no doubt have read many articles about how to hold a great sales meeting. But do you know how to hold a really bad one? That’s right – if you want your attendees to fall asleep, pass out from boredom or go home having learned nothing at all, there are several things you can do to make sure that happens. Hank Trisler, who conducts sales management and communication seminars and is the author of No Bull Selling (Bantam Doubleday, 1987), offers these tips for holding a lousy meeting.

Don’t set any objectives for your meeting. If your objectives are unclear or nonexistent, you’re in good company. “It happens all the time,” says Trisler. “We’re having a meeting because it’s time. It’s spring, so it must be time to meet.” But the calendar is no reason at all for a meeting. Do you want to educate your sales team about a new product? Teach them some new sales skills? Reward them for a job well done? Of course, if you sit down to figure out exactly what you want to accomplish, it will make holding a lousy meeting a bit tougher.

Make sure the room is inappropriate. For a really bad meeting put 50 people in a room designed for 500 and make sure they sit as far away from each other as possible. Even if they sit close together, though, your chances of having a bad meeting are still great. Trisler once was called in to work with a meeting that set up their 100 attendees on risers in the center of Vancouver’s professional sports stadium, a venue that holds tens of thousands of people. When the delegates spoke, says Trisler, their voices were “sucked up into the ether and you couldn’t hear them.” But it didn’t matter much anyway – people were too intimidated by all the space around them to speak.

Start late. Starting late is a great way to run a lousy meeting. When you start late you’re likely to end late, which will make the following session late, and on and on. Trisler once was scheduled to present at a national sales meeting for a large moving company. Things were running so late that the speaker after Trisler, who was scheduled to present at 2:30, finally got on at 4:15, just after the MC announced the start of cocktail hour. “He worked to an audience of six, including me and his spouse equivalent,” says Trisler. “What a waste of time, talent and money.”

Hire a Cheap MC. A really bad MC will start with a long joke that bombs, then move into 15 minutes of housekeeping announcements, as well as pop up frequently to make an announcement about “the white Buick in the parking lot with the lights on,” says Trisler. “A really experienced meeting-killer also will mispronounce most of the speaker’s names.” Trisler once was introduced by an MC who said: We have a guy here from the big city to show us country folks how it’s done. His name is Hank…uh, Hank. Well, let’s just call him Hank. Put your hands together for Hank from the big city.”

Want more great bad ideas? Visit