How to Make Meetings Suck Less

Whoever owns the meeting needs to keep it moving

Jessica Powell
Published in
6 min readJan 16, 2020


Illustration: Simo Liu

Jessica Powell, the former Google vice president who wrote The Big Disruption and told you how to quit your job, is here to answer your common but tricky work questions. Check back every other week for more management advice with a tech inflection.

I am a manager with a secret: I hate meetings. I’m at a big company and spend my whole day in meetings — either meetings I have been added to or meetings I myself organize. Can you give me a great excuse to get out of them? Or if not that, tips to make them less terrible?

Since you asked for it, here are some handy excuses to get out of useless work meetings:

  • I have a highly contagious illness.
  • I am allergic to humans.
  • The end of the world is tomorrow, and I want to spend the last 24 hours on Earth doing something meaningful with my time.

But it’s hard to play the apocalypse card every time a dumb meeting pops up on your calendar, and really, you’re probably not as anti-meeting as you may think you are.

That’s because meetings — in moderation and when well planned — do have value. Long before whiteboards and PowerPoint, the Romans had plenty of meetings about how to maintain and expand their empire. If a meeting was a good enough managerial tool for them, it’s probably a decent tool for the team at

It’s a better use of your time to figure out how to make meetings work for you than ways to wiggle out of them. Let’s start with what’s entirely in your control: all those meetings you inflict on your staff. (I’m not going to dive into 1:1 meetings — although they are really important.)

How to improve the dreaded team meeting

You probably have a weekly team meeting — most likely to keep people aligned on day-to-day issues and updated on longer-term efforts. It’s particularly common in larger companies, where the weekly meeting is one of many attempts to keep staff aligned.

In theory, it’s a good idea. In practice, it can be the worst of big company bloat, where, in a matter of months, the well-intentioned, initial framing…



Jessica Powell

Technophile, technophobe. Music software start-up founder. Former Google VP. Author, The Big Disruption. Fan of shochu, chocolate, and the absurd.