Effective Meetings - How to

If you want to have more effective meetings, first you have to learn the basics. Here are some simple, easy-to-follow and proven guidelines that should be followed each and every time your group meets.
Print this page. Hang it on your meeting room wall. Write the guidelines on a poster. Memorize them by heart. Do whatever it's going to take to improve your meetings! Guidelines you and your group can follow before, during and after your meeting:

Before The Meeting

• Meeting agenda

  • Only hold a meeting if necessary.
  • All meetings must have clear objectives. Define the purpose of the meeting.
  • Develop an agenda in cooperation with key participants which include the topics for discussion presenter or discussion leader for each topic and time allotment for each topic.
  • Distribute the agenda and circulate background material, lengthy documents or articles prior to the meeting so members will be prepared and feel involved and up-to-date.

• Scheduling Meetings

  • Choose an appropriate meeting time. Set a time limit and stick to it, if possible. Remember, members have other commitments. They will be more likely to attend meetings if you make them productive, predictable and as short as possible.
  • If possible, arrange the room so that members face each other, i.e., a circle or semi-circle. For large groups, try U-shaped rows.
  • Choose a location suitable to your group's size. Small rooms with too many people get stuffy and create tension. A larger room is more comfortable and encourages individual expression.
  • Vary meeting places if possible to accommodate different members. Be sure everyone knows where and when the next meeting will be held.

• Use visual aids for interest (e.g., posters, diagrams, etc.). Post a large agenda up front to which members can refer.

During The Meeting

• Chairing a Meeting

  • Start on time. End on time. So as not to punish those who are punctual. This also sets the stage for how serious you are about making the meeting effective.
  • Greet members and make them feel welcome, even late members when appropriate.
  • If possible, serve light refreshments; they are good icebreakers and make your members feel special and comfortable.
  • Review the agenda and set priorities for the meeting.
  • Stick to the agenda.
  • Encourage group discussion to get all points of view and ideas. You will have better quality decisions as well as highly motivated members; they will feel that attending meetings is worth their while.
  • Encourage feedback. Ideas, activities and commitment to the organization improve when members see their impact on the decision making process.
  • Keep conversation focused on the topic. Feel free to ask for only constructive and non- repetitive comments. Tactfully end discussions when they are getting nowhere or becoming destructive or unproductive.
  • As a leader, be a role model by listening, showing interest, appreciation and confidence in members. Admit mistakes.
  • End the meeting on a unifying or positive note. For example, have members volunteer thoughts of things they feel have been good or successful or reiterate the organization's mission.
  • Set a date, time and place for the next meeting.
  • Meeting effectiveness must be reviewed at the end of each meeting and suggested improvements applied to the next meeting.

• Meeting Minutens

  • Keep minutes of the meeting for future reference in case a question or problem arises.
  • The decisions made by the group must be documented.
  • Assigned action items must be documented, and the host, or an appropriate participant, must be appointed to follow-up on the completion of all action items.

After The Meeting

• Meeting Minutens

  • Write up and distribute minutes within 3 or 4 days. Quick action reinforces importance of meeting and reduces errors of memory.
  • Follow-up on delegation decisions. See that all members understand and carry-out their responsibilities.
  • Give recognition and appreciation to excellent and timely progress
  • Put unfinished business on the agenda for the next meeting.
  • Discuss any problems during the meeting with other officers; come up with ways improvements can be made.
  • Conduct a periodic evaluation of the meetings. Note any areas that can be analyzed and improved for more productive meetings. See a sample meeting evaluation.

And remember, effective meetings will keep them coming back!