The public servants’ guide to better meetings

How to stop 'meetings that should have been emails' syndrome

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was once warned by her father, King Frederick IX, that she was going to attend a lot of meetings during her life. He told her she could either sit back and be bored, or lean forward and be interested. The English broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, to whom Queen Margarethe once passed this advice, claims that as a result, he has never had a boring meeting.

But it’s not always so simple. Public servants have a lot of meetings, and leaning forward and being interested can only get you so far.

Canada’s Sean Boots has even created a Meeting Cost Calculator, which combines the number of people in the room (or conference call) with their seniority, for the duration of the meeting, and calculates the cost of their collective time.

This guide offers top tips for how to have better meetings in the public service, based on interviews with Apolitical members. Our findings from our global network of public servants show how to run meetings differently.

In this guide you’ll find:

  • Seven top tips from rock-star public servants
  • A set of questions that can be used to reboot your meeting
  • A before, during and after checklist to help keep your meeting focused.
  • A meeting prep worksheet prepare for and reflect on your meetings with our worksheet


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