Celebrating 50 years of recruiting and staffing excellence in Vancouver! About us.

< Back to Blogs

How to Run Effective Meetings

We’ve all been in those meetings that feel like a productivity black hole, where time moves so slowly that you’re left thinking…well, about literally anything other than whatever the meeting was called for. Each year, roughly 24 billion hours vanish into the void of unproductive meetings. Our mission? To ensure you don’t add to that statistic but instead host huddles that truly count!

Poorly organized meetings can suck the energy and productivity out of your workers, and not to mention, they drag on forever! On the flip side, effective meetings are catalysts for quality output. They create an environment where ideas flow, decisions are made, and team members leave with a renewed sense of purpose and direction – a chairperson’s dream.

Holding effective meetings will keep your team engaged, inspired and – frankly – impressed! So, to transform your meetings from energy vampires to productivity powerhouses, we’re going to walk you through the necessary steps to leading a successful meeting, from purpose conception to ending the meeting on a high.

Defining the Meeting Purpose

The first step to holding effective meetings is to ask yourself ‘What’s the point?’. If you’re struggling to put the purpose of the meeting into words, it might be a sign that you don’t need a meeting at all. Save yourself the ‘this could have been an email’ eye rolls and actually send out that email or organize a quick chat – sometimes these can get the job done more effectively.

But, let’s assume there is a real need for a meeting. Defining its purpose will give you and your team the necessary direction for this meeting to be a success.

The 5 Why’s

Think of the purpose as the ‘why’ behind the meeting, or you could even envision it as the ‘why, why, why, why, why’. This is the ‘5 Why’s’ technique. It’s as simple as repeatedly asking ‘why’ five times to help you dig deeper to uncover the root cause, and, in turn, unveil the end goal. Read more about this technique here.  

Selecting Participants

Having the right people at your meeting is one of the first steps to ensuring it’s as successful as possible. Too many voices in the room can muddle the message but too few may not invite enough perspectives. Effective meetings find a harmony between minimizing the number of participants and maximizing the potential for fruitful, pertinent discussion. So, while this isn’t the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge, you will want to spend time carefully selecting who to invite.

How to Select Attendees

With your meeting purpose ready to help guide you, let’s delve into a set of questions that will pinpoint the essential participants who should be in attendance.

  1. Who possesses the skills and expertise necessary to assist in achieving the meeting’s goal?
  2. Whose roles and responsibilities are influenced by the results and decisions made during this meeting?
  3. Are there any stakeholders or subject matter experts whose input is crucial for the meeting’s success?
  4. Who are the primary individuals responsible for driving key decisions in each relevant domain?

Once you’ve identified everyone you need for this meeting to be a success, you will need to assign meeting roles. Designating roles such as facilitator, timekeeper and minute-taker can further streamline the meeting process. This will help to maximize productivity and ensure your meeting is not only well-attended but also well-orchestrated. 

Creating the Agenda

The magnum opus of all effective meetings is the agenda. You’ve already got the meeting purpose nailed down, so now you can set measurable and actionable objectives that’ll help you reach the meeting’s desired outcome. With these objectives, you will create your meeting agenda.

This agenda is a step-by-step guide to help keep everyone on track and make sure the meeting flows smoothly. Without an agenda, meetings can easily veer off track, becoming unproductive and unfocused (more on that later). An agenda provides clarity by outlining the topics to be discussed, their order of importance, and the allocated time for each. It sets clear expectations for participants, encourages preparation, and helps the meeting stay on schedule. In essence, a well-structured agenda transforms a potentially chaotic gathering – think of any meeting held by Michael Scott in The Office – into a streamlined and purposeful exchange of ideas. 

What to Include in Your Agenda

Your agenda should be a comprehensive document that should include:

  • The main objective
  • Questions to be addressed
  • The purpose of each task
  • Time allocations for each topic
  • The person responsible for leading each discussion
  • A quick review to wrap things up

Once you have that agenda drawn up – using your own creative skills or nabbing a handy template from the internet – send it out with your calendar invites. This lets the attendees know what to expect and gives them adequate time to prepare. 

Sticking to the Agenda

We all know how easy it is for a meeting to turn into a passionate discussion about how it’s impossible to rewatch Game of Thrones with how the show ended. So, just as The Hand of the King leads the Small Council, you – or the designated meeting leader – must keep track of time, stave off any off-topic discussion and maintain everyone’s focus so all items on the agenda can be covered. Sticking to the agenda will not only help the meeting start and end on time but it also sends a clear message to the participants that you respect their time. 

Fostering a Positive Environment

You want the meeting attendees to feel as comfortable as possible so they remain engaged and are able to participate to the best of their abilities. Take some time to consider both the physical space and the tone you set for the meeting. 

The Physical Space

Lighting, noise, temperature and even air quality can all affect concentration and productivity. Set your meeting up for success by choosing a space with a comfortable ambiance and consider supplying beverages – the soft kind of course, you don’t want people too relaxed. 

The Vibe

The meeting environment goes beyond the physical walls of your meeting room and extends to the ground rules you lay out that will ultimately set the tone for the gathering. The most effective collaboration happens when people feel comfortable, so communicate clearly how you want people to contribute and encourage balanced participation. 

Ending the Meeting Right

You’ve just about made it to the end of the meeting, the final speaker is wrapping up right on time as per the agenda – but the fun’s not over yet! Before you thank everyone for their attendance and send them on their way, you need to end your meeting effectively. Don’t let all your planning and hard work go to waste. There are several things you need to do to make sure everyone leaves feeling accomplished and knowing what is expected of them next. 

Summarize Key Points

Summarizing the key points of the meeting ensures that everyone leaves with a crystal-clear understanding of what was discussed and the next steps. Think of it as the TLDR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) version of the meeting.

Assign Responsibilities

With everyone aligned on the meeting takeaways, you should assign the relevant attendees action items, ensuring you give deadlines too. Allocating clear commitments, firm timelines and individual responsibilities is a great way of maintaining momentum and making sure progress is made towards the meeting objectives.  

Schedule Follow-Ups

Follow-ups are standard etiquette upon the completion of a meeting. This will help you to provide clarity to any participants that may still need it. It’s also an opportunity to provide any extra information that wasn’t discussed and it will help you to track the progress of the action items you assigned. This follow-up can be done in the form of another (well-planned!) meeting, or it can be an email.

Proper preparation is the secret sauce that transforms mind-numbing meetings into energizing and productive gatherings. Plus, the ability to run effective meetings is a skill that sets you apart whether you’re a manager, team lead, or eager employee. If you follow the above advice, your meeting participants will be skipping to the conference room, agenda in hand, regardless of whether there are free donuts or not.

Additional Resources

Subscribe to get
Blog email updates

Posted on Aug 18, 2023