Build Your Meetings Like a Talk Show. Seriously.

Sounds counter-intuitive but try it and you’ll be surprised!

Diana Smyth
6 min readOct 5, 2020
wide shot of television talk show. TV camera and stage lights visible as well as hosts on set.

photo credit: simonkr from Pro

I’ve been doing this for a while with my own meetings, and I see it being done in webinars, but it was kind of at a sub-conscious level to start.

That’s because my background in TV and Radio, even though it wasn’t directly in the talk show space, guides me to craft almost any space as a TV studio with an audience, a host, guests and a production team. Talk about transferable skills! (Which I’ll get to in another post)

If virtual meeting fatigue is really and truly a thing, we can lighten it up, can’t we?

Diana, please explain!


Let’s build the stage and set the players in place and you’ll see how it comes together.

If your workteam culture or climate is open to it, it will be worth trying at least once to get the feedback.

1. Create the buzz about your meeting

Even before you start building your agenda, you can drop hints about the meeting and why it’s worth joining. Don’t be false or unprofessional, but offer enough teasers to give it swagger and clout — it’s the meeting of week, you won’t want to miss it!

The Outlook or Google Calendar meeting invitation, for example, is a great place to drop hints:

  • The subject line can give enough info to be clear, and add a kicker.
  • The description space can elaborate without giving everything away.
  • Can you add a visual? I moderate and build lots of learning sessions these days. They each have their own branding. Really! I use Canva Pro (I would put my affiliate link here but I’m way behind on setting it up, so if you’re interested send me a private note) templates to build what I think are eye-catching and unique identifiers.
meeting table with only participants’ hands and digital devices visible, speech bubble in the middle of the frame with info

Photo credit Creative-Touch and author text from Pro

Does your work team have a common messaging space, like BBME?

  • Pop your meeting ‘poster’ there, or some of the teaser copy from the meeting invitation, with the meeting info visible. The catch, as I experience it, is that jpg will be visible as an attachment but can’t support hyerlinks. PDF will have the clickable link, however, the attachment has to be opened. Every extra click someone has to make counts!

Set reminders:

Outlook is less robust than Google Calendar to add more than one reminder. If I’m using Outlook, I make two manual reminders.

  • The day before, I edit the invitation subject line by adding REMINDER at the start and selecting Update and Send. All invitees will get the update.
  • About an hour before, I go into a common messaging space and give a gentle note there. The default 30 minute notification will follow from the original meeting invite.
Hourglass on laptop keyboard

2. Set the meeting invitation for 5 or 10 minutes before the real start

Now that we’re all pretty much online, we don’t have to worry about folks rushing around the office to get to the conference room, or getting stuck in traffic between office locations (if that applies to your team).

What does this tactic do? It gives you a warm up to the meeting! Just like ANY TV show with a live audience does. I do it with most of my meetings. It’s awesome.

It serves at least 3 purposes:

  • It creates the pre-meeting chat room for colleagues to check in without eating into the real meeting time.
  • So when the meeting starts, folks are settled in and ready to go.
  • And if this takes hold, you might reduce late arrivals who can often upset the flow of the meeting.

3. Kick off the meeting like a talk show opening

You’re familiar with talk show openings, right?

There might be a ‘cold open’ (Saturday Night Live is the perfect example, although not a talk show) to kick off and jump start the action.

Or it could be the standard opening animation/montage with the announcer excitedly running through the show’s line up.

You can do that too!

Give your traditional agenda a lift at the start of the meeting, and apply the Talk Show Announcer effect. Don’t go over the top, but get the vibe going.

  • This is the transition from the warm up to the meeting. You’re shifting focus.
  • Welcome everyone again, and shift the meeting into order. Recall any of the teaser info you used in the meeting lead-up to create more energy.
  • Hand it over to the meeting chair, or the first item’s speakers if you are the chair.

4. Assign a Production Team to keep on top of timing and tech

There’s another meeting (show) right after yours, most likely. So starting and finishing on time and managing the time is not only professional but lets your attendees know you respect that they have more than your meeting on their docket that day.

  • The time keeper watches the clock and the pace of the agenda. Is an item taking longer than planned? The time keeper politely addresses this so the chair can take an action to steer things back on time.
  • The tech manager makes sure that the online meeting space is working fine, watches the chat, keeps an eye and ear out for attendees’ tech issues, keeping the chair free to focus on the agenda and discussion.
tv control room

photo credit: Aliaksei Skreidzeleu from Pro

5. Include the audience (attendees)

I’m building up to my next post with this one. Virtual meeting fatigue has its built-in causes, but generally, meeting fatigue could be generated by a one-sided agenda that leaves no place for the attendees to engage. These tips may seem obvious but let’s make sure we remember them.

  • You’ll keep the meeting energy up by making sure the agenda varies in speakers, not just the chair.
  • Give space for attendees who aren’t speaking to an agenda item or are usually shy to at least be recognized in the meeting.
  • Even better, invite their input without putting them on the spot.
  • Give a pause to let a speaker unmute when you’ve directed the discussion to them, or they have a comment to add to the current dialogue.
  • Determine how to best allow dialogue flow without stepping on each other’s voices.

6. Wrap up and pitch ahead

  • Set the agenda or discussion to conclude 2 minutes before the real meeting end.
  • Even though you engage with your colleagues regularly, as the meeting concludes, take that time to say thank you and see you again soon.
  • Attendees, this includes you!
  • Is there another meeting worthy of mentioning? You can kick off the build up for that meeting the same way you did for this one!

Business can still be business but I think there’s always room to liven it up.

I’d love to know if you try this approach and how it worked for you!



Diana Smyth

Public Speaking and Online Presentation Skills Coach Lifelong Learner Sustainable Life Seeker