Effective Meetings

Bringing your passion for people to life

Ian Pratt

Why are effective meetings so valuable in business?

Meetings are an effective way to bring people together to increase communication effectiveness, collaboration and to achieve results.

Meetings result in far more effective communication than either email or teleconferences. This is true because 55% of the meaning and feeling associated with a message is delivered through facial expression and non-verbal signals.

Email is effective in communicating only 7% of the true meaning and feeling of a message and teleconferences communicate only 38%.

What Are Effective Meetings?

What is an effective meeting? This occurs when people leave a meeting feeling energised, positive about the use of their time and with a sense that progress has been made.

Effective meetings can assist you to generate ideas, plan work, keep your people informed and assist with doing work.

However, when meetings are poorly planned and managed they become an unwanted distraction that alienates people and they fall short of achieving their stated purpose.

The benefits of well-managed meetings include;

  • Effective communication
  • Increase motivation and productivity
  • Problems get solved
  • Increased teamwork

Which occurs more often when

  • The meeting is planned with an agenda developed in a consultative manner
  • The objective of the meeting is clear
  • Time is used efficiently

Why do we have meetings?

There are many reasons to have a meeting some of the more common reasons are

  • Communication/information sharing
  • Team building
  • Sharing work status
  • Setting objectives
  • Doing work
  • Making a decision
  • Having a discussion
  • Completing some planning
  • Brainstorming or generating ideas
  • Training or sharing knowledge
  • Workshops
  • Managing change/consultation and getting feedback
  • Finding solutions/solving problems
  • Assigning tasks and delegating
  • Teamwork/motivation
  • Emergency/crisis management

Before The Meeting

To ensure your meetings are effective you will need to invest up to 1 hour on preparation, this preparation will include

  • Defining the purpose of the meeting or identifying the outcomes that you are seeking from the meeting
  • Developing an agenda
  • Selecting the participants
  • Distributing the agenda and pre-reading material

Defining the purpose of the meeting

The purpose will inform the attendees why they should attend the meeting and why the meeting exists. For example

  • Make final decision on software rollout plan
  • Communicate recent business achievements
  • Solve the car parking problem

You will find that many efective meetings will have more than one purpose. For example team meetings often include some communication updates, making decisions and some level of planning work.

Developing an Agenda

Once you have a purpose you will need to construct an agenda that will meet that stated purpose.

Generally you put the more urgent and important items at the beginning of the agenda and the less important things at the end. (In case you run out of time)

Click here to view the different types of agenda templates that you can use.

Prior to any meeting you can circulate the agenda and ask if anyone has any other business, this will eliminate people raising issues at the end of the meeting.

Discover more on developing an agenda with our detailed how to guide

Select Meeting Participants

You will find that almost everyone is already busy, so it is important to only invite the people that you need to achieve the outcomes of the meeting. However, don’t leave out any key people. The ideal number of participants in a meeting depends on the purpose of the meeting.

Communication meetings can have unlimited participants, where problem solving meetings should have between 6 and 10 participants. The more people you have in the meeting the harder it is to make a decision or have a constructive discussion. When planning the participants to your meetings, consider which of the following three categories they fit into

  • Attendees: Meeting participants who are expected to attend and participate in the meeting
  • Optional attendees: People who may be interested in the meeting outcomes but are not absolutely required to attend for the meeting to meet its goals
  • Guests: People who are invited to a meeting for a specific purpose, they may attend all or part of the meeting

Note: When running large programs I will talk to all of my key stakeholders about the various meetings I am going to run and I confirm with them my choices about including or excluding them from specific meetings.

During The Meeting

What to do during the meeting? As the meeting chairperson it is your responsibility to ensure that meeting is a positive experience for all involved.

  • Welcome everyone who attends the meeting, personally if possible
  • Have a few moments of social chat with people who arrive early to the meeting
  • Start the meeting on time
  • Start with a positive statement or praise to the participants
  • Clarify roles, such as minute taker, chair and introduce guests
  • At the end thank people for their contributions during the meeting
  • Finish the meeting on time

Tip: In environments where people attend a lot of meetings I will often start a meeting 5 minutes past the hour or 5 minutes past the half hour to allow people time to get from their previous meeting.

Time Keeping

It is easy for an effective meeting to become out of control and consume too much time without delivering results for the time invested.

A few tips for effective time management in meetings include

  • Start on time
  • Assign someone the role of time keeper
  • Use a “parking lot” to keep track of topics people want to discuss but you don’t have time to discuss in this meeting
  • If someone comes in late welcome them, but do not recap what you have already discussed
  • Stick to the agreed agenda

After The Meeting

Depending on the original purpose of the meeting there may now be a lot of work that needs to be done after the meeting

  • Write up the minutes of the meeting within a couple of days of the meeting and distribute to attendees, optional attendees and guests
  • Ensure people who committed to completing actions are aware of their actions and understand what is expected of them. (Assuming that attendees will read the minutes is an unreliable way of ensuring people complete their actions)
  • Update the agenda for your next meeting with any unfinished tasks from this meeting
  • Ask yourself and the participants “what can we do different or better next time”

Leadership is an investment in people: putting the effort into planning and running each of your meetings is one way that you can show that you believe other peoples time is important and that you respect their time.