More powerful meetings : Lessons from Personal Training

I joke with my personal trainer, Simon, that he and I are in a long term committed relationship. We’ve been seeing each other for over three years. This post will share some lessons from personal training that can make your meetings more powerful.

My PT sessions are far less photogenic than this. Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

My PT sessions are far less photogenic than this. Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

The fact is that a 30 minute PT session is often more productive than 45-60 minutes in the gym by myself. Here are three reasons and how you can apply them to your meetings.

No rest

We only have 30 minutes, so Simon smashes me. We move from one exercise to the next and there isn’t much time for me to meander between exercises or take a drink as I might otherwise be inclined to do. The fact that he doesn’t leave time for rest (unless it’s deliberate) means that we get more done.

For your meetings, you can think about any conversation that doesn’t solve a problem as effectively taking a "rest" from the purpose of the meeting. Keep your meetings to the right time and your conversations on track – no rest.


Something that Simon does incredibly well is that he creates a sequence of exercises that individually are challenging, but when put together in a particular sequence mean that I am really hurting (and ultimately benefiting). Sure, one day it led to me falling up the stairs in the train because my legs were stuffed (my daughter loves this story!), but ultimately the sequence of exercises means that the combination of exercises provides more benefit together than they do apart.

For your meetings, you can think about sequencing your agenda items. Is there a logical flow to them that means that they build on each other? Is there a way to group certain issues together (or apart) to get a better result?


One of the great benefits of a personal trainer is that they think up the exercises for you. I have a limited number of (pretty basic) exercises that I know of and left to my devices, that’s what I would do. Personal trainers as part of their job keep learning new and different exercises. That means that I get variety in my sessions. Each week, I will do a combination of exercises with some being familiar and others being new. This keeps me looking forward to my sessions and also continually challenges my mind and body to come up with new solutions.

The parallel for your meetings is pretty obvious here. Pay close attention to the variety in your meetings. It might help to think about variety in two different ways – within a meeting and between meetings. By mixing up the topics or processes within a meeting you will increase the likelihood of keeping participants engaged. Between meetings, you might have an opportunity to add variety by changing things like the length, timing or location.

So, a few things for you to consider this week:

  1. How much of your conversations in meetings could be called ‘rest’?

  2. Do you sequence topics within your meetings to make the most of the time?

  3. What is one way that you could add variety to make your meetings more powerful?