How to run a truly Effective Meeting

by Lee Martin


Jan 4, 2022

We’ve all been stuck in that meeting – the meeting that should have been an email.

You arrive on time only to have the meeting start 5 minutes late.

There’s no agenda.

No one’s leading the meeting.

People start to share ideas, others talk over them.

Nothing is really decided and the meeting finishes as you regret the lost hour. This routine is like a seeming endless loop on repeat…which is now being compounded with the online, remote meeting and the issues of poor Wi-Fi, cameras off and people forgetting they are on mute. Productivity, efficiency is non existent.

There is of course a better way.

During my 30 year career in large global corporate offices as well as working with and in SME’s and micro businesses I’ve learned the rules to running an effective meeting – in person or online.

These tips and strategies can work for anyone, regardless of title or situation.

The Three Essential Rules of Effective Meetings

1. Have an Agenda

It may seem like an obvious requirement, but a lot of meetings start with no clear sense of purpose. The meeting’s agenda can be summarized on a handout, written on a whiteboard or discussed explicitly at the outset, but everyone should know why they’ve gathered and what they’re supposed to be accomplishing.

The agenda provides a route map for the meeting, so the meeting can get back on track if the discussion wanders off course.

If the chairperson makes sure there is an agenda before a meeting starts, everyone will be able to follow the flow of the meeting. Also having sight of the agenda before the meeting enables people to utilise their time effectively attending the parts relevant to them.

2. Be timely – Start on Time. End on Time

Nothing can pee busy people off more than having their time wasted. And nothing wastes time more than waiting for people to show up for a meeting.

Why do so many people fall into the bad habit of being late for meetings?

Is it just that they’re so busy? Or is there a small thrill in keeping everyone waiting for them, a reminder that their time is somehow more valuable than everyone else’s?

Time is money, of course, and all that sitting around and trying to guess when the meeting will actually start is a waste of a precious resource. When establishing the cultural rules of an organization, employees take their cues from the people leading teams – any team. If leaders want a meeting to start on time, meetings will start on time.

Just as important as starting on time is ending on time. A definitive end time will help ensure that you accomplish what’s on your agenda and get people back to their work promptly. This requires that strength of character to close people down, stop people going off topic, procrastinating and moving to their own agenda.

3. End with Actions

The most effective meetings allow time to plan the next steps. So leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss exactly that…the next steps.

The conversation should include deciding who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are. Ownership of actions with deadlines is crucial. Otherwise, all the time you spent on the meeting will be for nothing.

Following the principle of what gets measured gets done means that by allocating actions to individuals to own and report back on at the next meeting..they will get actioned.

These are the three essential bedrocks of effective meetings….want to know more?

Well here’s a just few more…

Establish Ground Rules

Ask yourself, “What is the role of the meeting participants?” The more clarity you can provide about what you want to get out of them, the better; people are more likely to contribute if they know what role they’re supposed to play.

Explain the purpose of the meeting – generate ideas or agree actions?

Be clear whether the meeting is to brainstorm ideas in which case people need to be creative or if it’s a case of agreeing on proposals in which case people need to be analytical.

Final Decision, or further input?

Not all decisions are made further review is needed further expert insight maybe needed or indeed the action put to the masses. Be clear though in managing the audiences expectation in either case.

Manage Personalities

There are three common dynamics in a large meeting:

  • A few people like to showboat and dominate the conversation, while others hang back.
  • Some people volunteer ideas, while others only offer criticism.
  • People are reluctant to offer opinions that go beyond their area of expertise or their rank within an organization.

Any one of these scenarios can lead to people censoring themselves, which leads to a lost opportunity to get the best ideas and make the smartest decisions.

Here are some ways to make sure everyone is contributing:

In meetings, I often talk about how we have to be vulnerable, open and honest with each other…everyone should have an opinion and that view should be aired.

It’s important for everyone to understand stepping out of comfort zones is important to move forward and risk-taking is necessary.”

Get feedback on your meetings

To keep meetings effective get regular feedback on them from participants.

Ask whether each meeting was best use of everyone’s precious time. Ask about everything from duration, location, format, participants, agenda item to the biscuits and refreshments available….but be sure to get feedback!

Interested to know more..?

All of these points form good practice to ensuring your meetings are effective and good use of peoples time.

If they resonate with you and you’d like to further understand how to make your meetings the envy of others then click on the following link to get a FREE INSTANT DOWNLOAD COPY of our Effective Meetings Workbook full of greater insight with practical tips and hints to follow and implement.

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