Simple Strategies to Run an Effective Meeting

How many meetings have you been to where no decisions were made, no agreements, no next steps, no assigned tasks? A few? A bunch? Most of them? I have attended a lot of meetings over the years. I would say most were run pretty poorly. Just last week, I was in a meeting where there was no leader, no agenda, and no one taking notes. It was no surprise that after and hour the only thing that got done was to schedule another meeting.

meetingsBad meetings kill productivity. Humorist Dave Barry put it best: “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.'”

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to create action-oriented meetings. Just follow these must-dos:

  • Have a facilitator. Someone must be responsible for ensuring that the rest of the list gets done.
  • Invite the right people. Set and expectation that they show up and participate.
  • Before you start, agree on why you’re meeting. Don’t just meet to meet.  Have an objective.
  • Develop an agenda and follow it. Make sure it’s focused on your objective and don’t try and cover too much.
  • Keep people focused. It’s alright to deviate from the agenda, but don’t allow wild out of control detours.
  • When a suggestion is thrown out, check if there is agreement from the group to move on it. Unless it’s a mandate, don’t waste much time on ideas that are unrealistic and tasks that no one is willing to do.
  • At the end of the meeting, review the things the group agreed on and who is responsible to do what. This is the most important part of the meeting and where the rubber hits the road. It’s easy to sit in a meeting and talk, but getting to action is why you have most meetings in the first place.
  • Follow up. Send out an email immediately on what everyone agreed to and then hold people accountable for following through.  And track them down later to make sure they did what they said they would do.

These are the basics, but if you do them you will develop a reputation as someone who knows how to get things done.

There is a lot more to running an effective meeting. Check out these two great resources: Chris Locurto’s book – “Why Your Meetings Suck” –  and “Running Meetings”, by Harvard Business School Press

Also check out a popular blog post I wrote for the participants of meetings called “How to Behave in a Meeting.”

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