Streamlining your business

How to run a meeting to get the most out of it

Meetings are an inevitable part of a normal business week, but they can be a waste of time and are not always necessary. This is particularly true as a large portion of the workforce is transitioning to working from home.

Here are our top tips for running productive meetings from start to finish.

Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself: "Is a meeting really necessary and the best way to handle this?” 

This will cut down on wasted meeting time, and build the belief among staff that when meetings are scheduled, it is important to attend.

How to run an effective meeting

  • Ensure the people needed to achieve the intended outcomes of the meeting are invited to attend. You may not need every member of a team to attend.

  • Make sure attendees are provided with the time, venue and purpose of the meeting.

  • Set objectives for a meeting. This will help to focus on the agenda. Objectives also serve as a measurement for evaluating the outcomes of a meeting.

  • Give participants something to prepare for the meeting. The meeting will take on a new significance to each member.

  • Have the group read the background information necessary to get down to business when problem-solving is the objective. In the meeting, ask each group member to think of one possible solution to the problem to get everyone thinking about the meeting topic.

  • Use a written agenda to keep meetings focused and on track to achieve objectives.

  • Include a brief description of the meeting objectives in the agenda, and always include a list of the topics to be covered, who will address each topic, and for how long.

  • Write down a phrase to complete the sentence: “By the end of the meeting, I want the group to...” before you start planning the agenda.

  • Design an agenda so that participants get involved early in the meeting. This encourages punctuality.

  • Follow the agenda, but be flexible enough to adapt it if members are making progress in the planning process.

  • Start a meeting on time. This shows respect to those who arrived on time, and reminds late-comers the start time is serious.

  • Welcome attendees and thank them for their time.

  • Review the agenda at the beginning of the meeting to give participants a chance to understand all proposed topics.

  • Clarify your roles in the meeting, including who is responsible for note taking and when these will be provided to each participant post-meeting.

Develop a few basic ground rules that can be used for most of your meetings. The four ground rules needed for successful meetings are to:

  • participate
  • don't speak over each other 
  • focus

  • maintain momentum

  • reach closure.

Include ground rules about confidentiality if these are appropriate to the individual meeting.

List your primary ground rules on the written agenda. Keep the ground rules handy at all times.

If you have new attendees who are not used to your meetings, you may want to review each ground rule at the start of the meeting.

  • One of the biggest challenges when running a meeting is time management – time seems to run out before tasks are completed. Keeping momentum going is pivotal to productive meetings.

  • You might ask attendees to help you keep track of the time.

  • If the planned time on the agenda is getting out of hand, present it to the group and ask for their input as to a resolution.

  • Don't finish any discussion in the meeting without deciding how to act on it.

  • Listen for key comments that flag potential action items and don't let them pass by without addressing them during your meeting.

  • Statements such as “We should really…”, “That's a topic for a different meeting”, or “I wonder if we could…” are examples of comments that should trigger action items to get a task done, hold another meeting or further examine a particular idea.

  • Assigning tasks and projects as they arise during the meeting means your follow-through will be complete. Addressing off-topic statements during the meeting in this way also allows you to keep the meeting on track.

  • By immediately addressing these statements with the suggestion of making an action item to examine the issue outside of the current meeting, you show meeting participants that you value their input as well as their time.

  • Don't leave the meeting without assessing what took place and making a plan to improve the next meeting.

  • It's amazing how often people will complain about a meeting being a complete waste of time, but they only say so after the meeting. Get their feedback during the meeting when you can improve the meeting process right away. 

  • Every couple of hours, conduct five to 10 minute "satisfaction checks". In a round-table approach, quickly have each participant indicate how they think the meeting is going.

  • Assign the last few minutes of every meeting as time to review the following questions:

    • What worked well in this meeting?

    • What can we do to improve our next meeting?

  • Always end meetings on time and aim to end on a positive note.

  • At the end of a meeting, review actions and assignments, and set the time for the next meeting and ask each person if they can make it or not (to get their commitment).

  • Clarify meeting minutes and actions will be reported back to members in at most a week (this helps to keep momentum going).

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