How to run a meeting | 8 points you need to know for an effective meeting

Most companies have meetings that can be a complete waste of time and many individuals don’t even like them. So, why do we still have meetings? What’s the point anyways?

Evolution dictates that we have an innate desire to sit in a group and discuss serious matters. That’s how Homo sapiens used to figure out how they would hunt down much larger mammals like mammoths.. In essence, meetings have been our way to validate plans and build trust. Imagine a corporation that houses over 10,000 employees. How will everyone decide the way to move forward? Well, meetings are your answer. However, not all meetings are effective or productive. In fact, poorly run meetings can be demotivating, and detrimental to the overall success of a team or organization.

Though often labeled as a time-wasting event, meetings hold an untapped potential. This article is dedicated to ensuring that your company’s meetings break the mold, transforming from mundane obligations into dynamic, outcome-driven sessions. Let’s see how we can do that.

8 Key Elements for a Successful Meeting

Several key elements contribute to the success of a meeting: 

  • Clear Objectives: Defining the purpose and desired outcomes of the meeting.
  • Structured Agenda: Creating a well-organized agenda that outlines the topics to be discussed and the time allocated for each.
  • Appropriate Environment: Choosing the right physical or virtual space that promotes collaboration and comfort.
  • Preparation: Gathering and organizing the necessary information and materials in advance.
  • Engagement: Encouraging active participation and involvement from all attendees.
  • Time Management: Being mindful of time constraints and sticking to the agenda.
  • Conflict Resolution: Addressing conflicts or disruptive behavior with tact and professionalism.
  • Follow-Up: Summarizing key decisions, action items, and timelines, and seeking feedback from participants.

We’ll now discuss how each point comes together to make a meeting successful and not be a complete waste of time for all the participants.

1. Define the Meeting Objectives

Before scheduling a meeting, it is important to clearly define its objectives. A well-defined objective will help you determine whether a meeting is necessary or if the objective can be achieved through other means, such as an email or a quick conversation. Identify the purpose of the meeting and the specific outcomes you hope to achieve. This will help everyone understand the purpose and importance of the meeting they’re about to have.

2. Create an Agenda and Send Calendar Invites

An agenda serves as a roadmap for the meeting, outlining the topics to be discussed and the order in which they will be addressed. A well-crafted agenda not only keeps the meeting on track but also helps participants come prepared. Send the agenda along with the meeting invitation to provide attendees with enough time to review the topics and gather any necessary materials or information.

3. Consider Meeting Length and Scheduling Time

When determining the length of a meeting, it is important to be conscious of people’s time and attention spans. Aim to keep the meeting as concise as possible while allowing enough time for thorough discussion and decision-making. Consider scheduling meetings at times when participants are most likely to be alert and receptive. Avoid scheduling meetings during lunch breaks or at the end of the day when fatigue can impact engagement.

4. Create a Safe Space for Collaboration

5. Strategically Choose Attendees and Appoint Important Roles

Selecting the right attendees for a meeting is crucial to its success. Identify key stakeholders and individuals whose expertise or perspective is relevant to the topics on the agenda. Limit the number of participants for a focused discussion.You can also consider assigning specific roles, such as a facilitator, timekeeper, or a note-taker, to promote structure and accountability within the meeting.

6. Best Practices to Stay on Track

During the meeting, it is important to establish guidelines that help the conversation stay focused and productive. Encourage participants to avoid side discussions and redirect any off-topic conversations back to the agenda items. Keep participants engaged by actively involving them in the discussion, asking for their input, and seeking consensus whenever possible.

7. Deal with Difficult People (Conflict Resolution)

Difficult people can sometimes disrupt the flow of a meeting or hinder productive discussions. It is important to have strategies in place to deal with such situations. Remain calm and composed, actively listen to their concerns, and address their points respectfully. If necessary, suggest taking the conversation offline to prevent derailing the meeting.

8. End with Clear Action Items and Timelines

An effective meeting ends with clear action items, assigned owners, and specific timelines. Summarize the decisions made and the tasks assigned during the meeting, ensuring that everyone understands their responsibilities. Follow up with meeting minutes or a “summary email” that outlines the action steps agreed upon, along with the deadlines for completion.

Having A Successful Meeting: Key Takeaways

  1. Have a clear objective for the meeting.
  2. Create an agenda and send it along with the meeting invitation.
  3. Respect people’s time by keeping the meeting as concise as possible.
  4. Foster an environment of psychological safety for open collaboration.
  5. Select attendees strategically and assign important roles.
  6. Establish guidelines to keep the meeting on track and productive.
  7. End the meeting with clear action items and timelines.
  8. Deal with difficult people calmly and assertively.