Tips and Tricks for Leading Effective Meetings

It’s proven, and I’m sure you’ve witnessed it yourself… meetings can be extremely wasteful and ineffective.  Some professionals attend over 50 meetings a month, possibly way more, and research indicates that over half of the time spent in meetings is wasted (Robert B. Nelson and Peter Economy, Better Business Meetings, Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin Inc, 1995).  Assuming that each meeting is 1 hour long and 50% of meeting time is wasted, that equates to 25 hours a month gone to waste at work…  That is an astounding number!  This wastefulness may take the form of attendees daydreaming, bringing separate work to meetings, or even dozing off during them.  Simply stated, meetings that aren’t effective are an extreme waste of time for everyone involved.  Our goal here is to provide you with some tips and tricks to lead effective meetings within your organization so that everyone’s time is well spent, which in turn leads to overall company effectiveness and success.


How Meetings are NOT Effective outlines a great list of the “Seven Deadly Sins of Meetings” which describes exactly what you should avoid in them, we have outlined them at a high-level below.

Sin #1: People don’t take meetings seriously.  They don’t arrive on time, don’t participate, etc.

Sin #2: Meetings are too long.  They can typically accomplish twice as much in half the time.

Sin #3: People wander off topic and spend more time digressing than discussing what is important to the meeting.

Sin #4: Nothing happens at the end of the meeting.  No action items or decisions are decided upon.

Sin #5: People simply don’t tell the truth.  There are many “off-the-cuff” comments that may be invalid.

Sin #6: Meetings often are missing critical information thus critical decisions are commonly postponed.

Sin #7: Meetings never get better.  They stay horribly executed and ineffective.


Tips and Tricks for Effective Meetings

There is no formal education on how to run a meeting in a professional setting and as you can relate to the above “sins”, you can see that it’s quite obvious.  To become successful and effective at leading meetings within your organization, we have provided you with the below tips to help omit the above “sins” from occurring when you are in charge.


Only Hold a Meeting if it is Necessary

Is the meeting you intend to set up actually necessary?  Could the outcome of the intended meeting come from an email with the appropriate stakeholders?  Could the outcome be obtained through a one-on-one phone call?  It’s critical to only hold meetings when they are absolutely necessary, this will create and keep the cultural understanding that meetings are serious and should be taken as that.


Set Clear Goals and Objectives for the Meeting

What do you want to accomplish when the meeting is over?  What’s the problem you wish to solve through this meeting?  Setting clear objectives, and sharing with the team prior will help in a number of ways.  Sharing these goals can help you decide who absolutely needs to attend, it can help others determine if they need to attend, it can help the group stay focused if things tend to “creep” out of scope, and it can help the meeting leader evaluate if the gathering was successful or not once completed.


Provide an Agenda for the Meeting

Providing an agenda prior to a meeting, most conveniently in the meeting invite, is one of the most useful time management tools you can use.  An agenda outlining the topics of discussion, the time allotted for each topic, the designated speaker on each topic, etc. can greatly aid in facilitating an effective meeting, making the best use of everybody’s time.  Also, don’t just set an agenda and think it will be useful… follow it!


Share All Relevant Information Prior to the Meeting

Most definitely share the information that is required to attend the meeting (i.e. location, Skype/call-in info, directions, etc.), but also share any additional background information that may be referred to during the meeting.  If there is a large document or set of data that is tedious to review, share this prior to the meeting so attendees can come prepared with their comments, questions, or concerns.  Some examples of preliminary information that could be shared prior to the meeting include documents for detailed review, PowerPoint slides for “pre-reads”, etc.


Meetings Must Start on Time

Bad habits can be extremely hard to break, especially when embedded in a company’s culture.  To avoid this “bad habit”, always start meetings on-time and reward those who arrive on time by being punctual.  Being punctual with your meetings portrays importance so that they are continuously taken seriously.


Start Off by Reiterating Important Meeting Info

At the start of the meeting, be sure to repeat and clearly state the objectives and why everyone is gathered together.  Also, ensure that you review the agenda to remind the attendees of the topics for discussion and that the meeting is organized in a timely manner.  Remembering to do this can really help in setting the tone, eventually leading to a punctual and effective meeting.


Facilitate the Meeting Effectively

As the leader of a meeting, it is your job to “command” the crowd and attendees.  It is important for participants to contribute effectively and to do this they must: be on time, be prepared, be concise, and be constructive in their participation.


Take Meeting Notes or Minutes

note taking during meeting

Be sure to assign a note-taking “scribe” to every meeting.

Notes should be taken throughout the meeting to capture all important topics or discussions.  Ideally, the meeting facilitator is not the person documenting these notes, rather a designated “scribe” should be assigned this task so that the facilitator can focus on controlling the meeting and staying on topic.  In addition to documenting any important information, it is critical to also capture and document any decisions that were made for evidence and record-keeping purposes.  These notes/minutes should also be cleaned up and distributed to the team after the meeting is complete for future reference.


Identify Action Items from the Meeting

In addition to the general meeting notes and decisions made, all action items should be captured and assigned throughout.  If it makes sense, it may even be a good time to discuss and determine due dates or follow-up times for these items.  Once all action items have been collected and the meeting is about to adjourn, it is always a good idea to recap the action items to ensure that everyone is on the same page and so each individual can pencil in the items on their own to-do lists.


Reflect on the Meeting

Finally… be sure to reflect on the success of the meeting.  Did you accomplish what was intended?  Did you make good use of everyone’s time?  Did everyone walk away understanding the next steps?  These are the type of questions that should be asked to ensure that you are driving the organization towards being more effective as well as overall greater success.


Final Thoughts

Meetings can take up a large portion of our workdays, thus it is of paramount importance to the company that we make the best use of that time. Most of us have seen how wasteful meetings can be when led incorrectly and it can cause a great detriment to our organizational success.  That being said, we have provided you with some tips and tricks that can be used to reduce this waste, streamline employee effectiveness, and improve overall business performance.  We hope you find this useful in developing yourself and your organization.  Let us know what you think and if you have any tips of your own to add in the comments below!

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