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Effective meetings: How to run a successful meeting


Your day starts at 8:30 a.m. with a staff meeting, followed by a managers meeting at 10 a.m. If you’re lucky, you break for lunch. Then there’s the monthly production meeting at 1:30 p.m. and a brainstorming session at 3 p.m. Now it’s 4 p.m. – time to get down to business. Sound familiar?

Meetings take a lot of time and energy, sometimes leaving little left for the work at hand. The fact is that unproductive meetings are a huge drain on your time, your people and your company’s bottom line. They cost your business in direct ways, such as the money lost in salaries and time, as well as in productivity losses due to stress, job dissatisfaction and lack of employee commitment.

There are 25 million meetings taking place in the U.S. every day – with 67 percent considered failures, according to The estimated cost? Thirty seven billion dollars a year.

That’s a chunk of change. Let’s look at seven tips on how to have effective meetings and save your business time and money.

1. Plan ahead

Effective meetings require advance planning. Before you schedule a meeting, take a breath and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this meeting necessary? Maybe you could get the same results with a phone call or an email. Be respectful of people’s time and resources.
  • What is the purpose of the meeting? Set reasonable objectives and know what you need to accomplish.
  • Who needs to attend? Consider what decisions need to be made and who has the authority to make them. For instance, if you are meeting to discuss creating a new company-sponsored event, make sure you include someone from leadership who is empowered to make financial decisions on behalf of the company.

2. Use your time wisely

Don’t leave things to chance.  Remember that time is money. Make the most out of it and plan for effective meetings by creating an agenda. Your agenda should outline the purpose of the meeting, topics of discussion and the time allotted for each, any decisions that need to be made, who is attending and where it will be held. Try to get it out no less than one day in advance of the meeting to give people time to gather their thoughts and prepare. This will help keep the meeting focused and productive.

3. Keep the ball rolling

Depending on the length of the meeting, the number of people and how complex the topic, sometimes it’s helpful to designate a timekeeper who can keep the meeting on track and move the discussion along if necessary.  The timekeeper is responsible for making sure the attendees stick to the agenda, a winning formula for an effective meeting.  This can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Using colored cards that the timekeeper can hold up to mark certain time points
  • Hand signals to indicate it is time to move forward
  • Setting a timer to alert everyone that it is time to switch to the next topic

This is effective in smaller meetings as well and can be handled by the meeting facilitator. By using a timekeeper you help ensure that everyone is actively engaged in accomplishing the goals of the meeting.

4. Pick your props wisely

Be selective on the types of support materials you use to get your message across in meetings. While animated presentations can be a great way to reinforce the information you are covering, these tools can also be a distraction. The message can get lost behind the fonts and animations and your meeting can become nothing more than a pretty presentation.  Keep in mind that whatever props you choose should highlight your message – not document it.  There is no need to provide a written version of your entire presentation.

Likewise, a well-thought-out visual can add oomph and gain buy-in from the team.

For example, Dave is creating a new product that is in the design stage. He has called a meeting with his team to go over the next phase of development. To add interest and get buy-in, he presents a nice visual that showcases the final product during the meeting.

5. Keep distractions to a minimum

Effective meetings are held for a specific purpose. All attendees have other things on their plates and many times they don’t put them down. Checking emails, cell phones and doing other tasks during a meeting kills productivity. The best way to avoid this is to openly request that everyone refrain from using phones and laptops during the meeting.  You might suggest that cell phones be placed face down on the table during the meeting to avoid temptation.

As the meeting facilitator, you can provide participants with a printed agenda and copies of your presentation that also includes space to take notes – the old fashioned way.  It’s less distracting than typing and also removes the visual obstacle that a laptop creates. It’s understandable that occasionally someone will have to take a call, but it should be the exception. Leaving a meeting to take a phone call is a disruption to everyone else and sends a bad message.

6. Sum it up

Make it a practice to recap the meeting. Outline each action item, who is responsible for what and the time frame that each task requires for completion. It’s good practice to send this out to all attendees within one day of the meeting.

7. Provide creative alternatives

Meetings can be done in a variety of ways. From short huddles to off-site meetings to video conferencing – there are many alternatives to sitting in a conference room. By mixing it up you can create a positive vibe and have effective meetings that encourage collaboration and interaction.

If you only need a short meeting to go over a few details, maybe a quick phone call or an email will suffice. Be aware of what you’re trying to accomplish and consider all the options. You will save time and meet your objectives faster.

Meetings are mainly thought of as time-draining, unproductive workplace necessities. But they don’t have to be – when managed well, meetings bring people together to share ideas and get things done. It is within the spirit of collaboration where businesses thrive.

Download The Insperity guide to employee engagement to discover more ways to build a collaborative workforce.