The Beauty of a Well Run Meeting

01/08/2010 06:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's a typical day and someone's called another meeting you have to attend. That racks up 10 so far this week. How are you supposed to do your work if you're constantly in meetings? The most common complaints about meetings are that they are too long, not always productive and often a complete waste of time.

While you can't control how others run their meetings, you certainly can do something about yours!


Here are some ways to make your meetings run better:

Have An Agenda - Your meeting should have a clear goal. What's the purpose of the meeting and what outcome do you want? Organize the meeting with the various topics to be discussed and what the desired outcome is. It should be clear when a decision is expected, as opposed to providing a status on the project. Each topic should have an allotted time (e.g., 10 minutes) and you should lead with the most important things, like what decisions need to be made. People are freshest at the start of the meeting and you'll want to take advantage of this.

Invite The Right People - More things tend to get done at smaller meetings. Only have the people necessary to achieve your desired outcome. Make sure the people included have the knowledge to discuss the issues and the appropriate authority to make agreements. You might want to structure the meetings so that decision makers can leave when they're done. There's no need to invite an entire department when one person can represent the group.

Discuss Issues Beforehand - Share the agenda and the issues with the key people beforehand. The more they know about what will be discussed and what decisions need to be made, the more productive the meeting will be. Make sure everyone knows what information they need to bring. By having a brief conversation with them prior to the meeting you'll know what issues might be raised. The more you know in advance, the better prepared you'll be.

Decide How You'll Manage - Will you make an opening statement that reiterates the purpose and objective of the meeting? Will you summarize along the way (recommended) or at the end? Who will take the notes? How will you keep people on track and draw the meeting to an end? All these should be decided beforehand so that you are managing the meeting and its not managing you.

Keep Them Engaged - We've all sat through seemingly endless meetings, where someone droned on and on. To the extent that you can, engage people so they are actively participating. After all this is not a lecture, it's a meeting. If you notice someone is particularly quiet, ask for their input. Every voice should count or why else would they be in the room? In the spirit of being inclusive, you'll want to create an atmosphere in which people feel free to express their views. Not only will this keep the energy level high, there will be more solutions offered.

Meetings are a necessary part of business and the most effective ones are those in which the best planning was done prior to the meeting. The planning that you do upfront is a compliment to the people in the meeting, because it shows you care about their time. Just like you, they have lots on their plate, so help them get back to their work soon.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success