Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Well, let me rephrase that, I hate poorly designed meetings. I hate meetings where people come without any preparation, where they come because ‘that’s what we do on Fridays at 10AM', and where employees come with no idea why they are there! I hate meetings where people sit quietly and listen, and I hate meetings where the meeting leader shares numbers and facts. I hate meetings where people leave at the end and go back to business as usual. Quite simply, I hate the way many meetings are run.
Ahh, I feel better now! Now that I got that off my chest let’s talk about how to run effective meetings where time is used wisely and participants (not attendees) leave with a renewed purpose. The key here is time management, goal setting, communication, and leadership!
Here are some of my best practices...
1. Who’s coming? The first order of business should happen before the start of any meeting, we need to be strategic about who to invite. Just because someone is part of your email distribution list does not mean they need to attend. Don’t worry about insulting someone or scaring someone by them not being invited, this is mitigated with good communication. Let your entire team know about your new strategic meeting protocol, that only those who need to be at a specific meeting will be asked to participate, and this will change from meeting to meeting (Note, meeting participants should not be referred to as attendees. Invites should go out for people to participate in the meeting, not attend it!). Participants will come to understand that all those who attend will be leaving with an action item, and those who wouldn’t have something to do based on what was covered will no longer need to attend. After the initial shock wears off all will see that this is a better use of time for those who attend, as well as those who don’t.
2. Action Items for All! If you are at a meeting you should be leaving with something to do. Think about it, you sit through a 55 minute discussion (no need to stretch it to 60 just because Outlook or Google Calendar tells you to), and walk out. If you don’t have something to do based on what was discussed, why were you there? A meeting should not simply be to share information, there are many other means for that. A meeting should be to provide guidance, discuss initiatives, and provide the tools and inspiration for participants to take action. Thus, action items for all!
3. Pre-work. All participants should prepare something prior to the session and be prepared to share it. Each participant should have something to share; whether it's a best practice, a challenge, information they came across that will add to the discussion, etc. The key is not what they prepare, but rather that they prepare and get prepared to participate. To start this process the facilitator should send distribute an agenda with enough time for participants to consider what they can contribute to the session.
4. Why are we there? I mentioned above that meetings should not be about sharing information. Let me expand here a bit, sharing information is a good place to start, but then we need to segue (and segue fast) into what we will be doing with the information. My personal preference is to share information (data, changes, etc) prior to the meeting and have participants (remember, not attendees) use this to best prepare.
5. Getting participants involved. My first tip on this is that the role of facilitator should rotate from session to session. By rotating we are encouraging strategic thinking in different members of our team while also helping to teach our team members to be better facilitators. In addition to rotating facilitation, below are some general questions which I often recommend to clients to guide their meetings (and these should be adjusted based on industry).
a. What successes did you have since we last met?
b. What challenges did you have and how did you overcome them?
These questions serve a few purposes. First they help managers to see how things are progressing (without asking for the data that not everyone needs to listen to). Second, they encourage storytelling, which is a great way for people to learn. The stories and examples which each participant shares can help the others in the room to capitalize on their performance and will hopefully help them to identify new tactics. Third, they open the door for the sharing of best practices and for team members to provide support for both successes and obstacles.
Finally, let’s remember, a one hour meeting with ten attendees does not equate to one hour, it equates to ten hours of time your organization is spending on the meeting…make it count!
These are some of my tips and best practices; I'd love to hear some of yours! Please share here or via any of my social media channels where this is posted...let's continue to develop our leadership community and help each other to become the strongest meeting leaders and organizational leaders that we can be!
To bring The Leadership Doc to your organization for a keynote, workshop, or comprehensive training program, or to learn more about our services, please go to