Volume 12: How to organize a successful meeting

How to organize a successful meeting
There are good meetings and there are bad meetings. Bad meetings drone on forever, you never seem to get to the point, and you leave wondering why you were even present. Effective ones leave you energized and feeling that you've really accomplished something.

So what makes a meeting effective? This really boils down to three things:

  • They achieve the meeting's objective.
  • They take up a minimum amount of time.
  • They leave participants feeling that a sensible process has been followed.
If you structure your meeting planning, preparation, execution, and follow up around these three basic criteria, the result will be an effective meeting.

1. The Meeting's Objective
An effective meeting serves a useful purpose. This means that in it, you achieve a desired outcome. For a meeting to meet this outcome, or objective, you have to be clear about what it is.

Too often, people call a meeting to discuss something without really considering what a good outcome would be.
  • Do you want a decision?
  • Do you want to generate ideas?
  • Are you getting status reports?
  • Are you communicating something?
  • Are you making plans?
Any of these, and a myriad of others, is an example of a meeting objective. Before you do any meeting planning, you need to focus your objective.

To help you determine what your meeting objective is, complete this sentence:
At the close of the meeting, I want the group to ...
With the end result clearly defined, you can then plan the contents of the meeting, and determine who needs to be present.

2. Use Time Wisely
Time is a precious resource, and no one wants their time wasted. With the amount of time we all spend in meetings, you owe it to yourself and your team to streamline the meeting as much as possible. What's more, time wasted in a meeting is time wasted for everybody attending. For example, if a critical person is 15 minutes late in an eight person meeting, that person has cost the organization two hours of lost activity.

How do you organize your meetings?
Step 1: Decide if you really need to meet
This is a great point. Too many times meetings are scheduled unnecessarily. When you're creating the strategic plan for the year ahead, it's assumed you'll need to meet. But how many times do you need to meet and how will you break up the meetings and tasks so the plan is created efficiently? Take some time to figure out what it will take to complete this project in time for the new year.

Step 2: Determine who should attend
The ease of scheduling this meeting will greatly depend on who needs to be there. Some people are inherently overbooked. As harsh as this sounds, determine the must haves and the optional. Get a good estimate of how big your meeting will be so you can find the appropriate space later.

Step 3: Estimate how much time you need
Obviously, time will be an important factor to finding the right time and place for your meeting. Don't assume you can cover everything in an hour or conversely don't automatically book a whole hour when it could be shorter. Then ensure you find a time with enough buffer on both sides that fits within everyone's calendar.

Step 4: Determine what type of meeting it will be
If this is the initial meeting for creating your strategic plan, then this is more of a brainstorming meeting. For brainstorming you will probably require a whiteboard to jot ideas (or a projector to project notes and ideas). This will determine the type of room you need. If instead you're planning the last meeting of the strategic plan, where you're presenting to senior management, you'll probably want to find a board room that to set the right mood.

Step 5: Choose how you will communicate & document the meeting
In this global day and age, you may have team members in different parts of the country or the world and not everyone will be able to join in person. You'll need to decide what communication tool will work best.

Will you be showing slides? Maybe you need GoToMeeting?
Will you be brainstorming? You'll need strong video capabilities, like Zoom or Pexip
How will you share the notes from the meeting? Does your company have a standard file sharing platform or does everyone use different technologies, like Dropbox or Google Drive?
Step 6: Prepare for changes
Just because out of all odds you found a time and place where everyone you need for the meeting can join doesn't mean it will stay that way. Plan for that and have a second and third meeting time & place plan from the beginning.
  • 1: Know why you called the meeting
  • 2: Know what action you expect from the meeting
  • 3: ever send a meeting to do a conversation's work
  • 4: Designate someone you trust to take the minutes
  • 5: Establish the rules of order
  • 6: Start on time, end early
  • 7: Maintain focus
  • 8: Assign action items at the end
  • 9: Verify agreements
  • 10: Follow up with assignments and agreements
Nothing is a substitute for good manners.
By following these simple tips, you can run a more effective meeting.


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