How to Lead Effective Meetings

Why do meetings often have a bad rap?

Perhaps it is because many any of them are poorly organized, overly long, and lack clear direction or leadership.

There’s nothing worse than these types of meetings. People sit there grinding their teeth wondering why they have to be present for the meeting and how they could be making so much better use of their time.  “Why can’t we get rid of all meetings,” many people wonder.

Meetings aren’t an unfortunate part of business life, they’re a hugely important fact of business life. Meetings are where strategies are debated, budgets are vetted, projects are reviewed, and plans are agreed upon. They’re how deals are negotiated and how they ultimately get done.  Meetings allow for team building and they’re a requirement if you want to climb the career ladder. Meetings occur in every business, in every industry, and in every country in the world.  There’s no way to avoid them!


Here are some tips to help make your meetings more effective.


Define the key reason(s) of the meeting

Before holding any meeting, sit down and define the key aspects: What is the overall purpose? What are the goals/objectives? What are the key deliverables? Who are the key sponsors/stakeholders and why?  Don’t waste your colleagues’ time by being unprepared.  Learn this equation. No leader + no documentation + no follow up = waste of time. Every meeting has to have a leader, a stated purpose, a start and end time, and a valid reason for each and every person to be there.


Determine the agenda and attendees

Start with the overall purpose and objectives and then build an agenda that includes the right topics and people. Break the agenda into sections by topic. For each section include: The start and stop time, description and goals, owner (the presenter or person responsible for the topic), and time for open discussion. Connect with each person you’ve listed as an “owner” to verify their participation, discuss the goals and objectives for their section, and ensure clarity on what you’re expecting them to present/discuss.


Find and reserve the location

Book the meeting location based on the number of attendees, the room set-up needed, availability for media (screens, computer projectors, erasable white boards, flip charts, etc.), availability for catering (if needed), and convenience to attendees. Block enough time prior to the meeting start for room set-up and enough time afterwards in case the meeting runs long.

Barrister has conference rooms and meeting locations available all over the Southland! You can see our facilities and even book a room online with our Southern California Meeting Room tool.

Read 9 Unconventional Steps to Leading Effective Meetings from CBS Moneywatch


Finish up the pre-meeting prep work

While you can’t control everything, try your best to control as many aspects of the meeting as possible. Better preparation = better meeting. Meet with key stakeholders to ensure buy-in and support and then assign meeting roles such as note-taker, timekeeper, and devil’s advocate (someone to challenge conventional thinking and ensure the group isn’t engaging in groupthink).


Opening, facilitating, and closing the meeting

Take time to open the meeting by explaining what will happen, what needs to be accomplished, and the outcomes necessary from the meeting. During the meeting, make sure in-depth discussion occurs and situations are examined from all angles. Capture key action items, issues, decisions, and steps for follow-up after the meeting. Throughout the meeting, lead by being a role model – by respecting the knowledge of the attendees and by encouraging respect for each other during the meeting. Close the meeting by reviewing key action items and responsibilities for follow-ups, and by thanking everyone for their participation.


Promptly send out the meeting minutes

Send out meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting, while everything is fresh in the minds of the attendees and the momentum of the meeting can still be harnessed. Remind folks to review the minutes for action items, owners, and deadlines.


Lose the hallway meetings

Founders and other start-up executives are often fond of ad-hoc hallway meetings. The problem is that decisions are made without input from key stakeholders. Sometimes that’s a smokescreen for passive-aggressive behavior. Other times it results in strategy du jour. Either way, it undermines organizational effectiveness.


Challenge the status quo

If you run a periodic meeting, occasionally ask your team what you can do to improve it and help make them more effective. You’ll usually get at least one good suggestion and your team will appreciate it.