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Effective Meetings
by Commerce Solutions in

Definition Effective meetings

Many people have devoted a lot of time to making meetings work. They have developed some ground rules which can help you to get more out of meetings, in less time, and, often, with less stress.

6 tips for more effective meetings
1. Don't Meet
avoid a meeting if the same information could be covered in a memo, e-mail or brief report? One of the keys to having more effective meetings is differentiating between the need for one-way information dissemination and two-way information sharing. To disseminate information you can use a variety of other communication media, such as sending an e-mail or posting the information on your company's intranet. If you want to be certain you have delivered the right message, you can schedule a meeting to simply answer questions about the information you have sent. By remembering to ask yourself, "Is a meeting the best way to handle this?" you'll cut down on wasted meeting time and restore your group's belief that the meetings they attend are necessary.
2. Set Objectives for the Meeting
Set objectives before the meeting! Before planning the agenda for the meeting, write down a phrase or several phrases to complete the sentence: By the end of the meeting, I want the group to… Depending on the focus of your meeting, your ending to the sentence might include phrases such as: …be able to list the top three features of our newest product, …have generated three ideas for increasing our sales, …understand the way we do business with customers, …leave with an action plan, …decide on a new widget supplier, or …solve the design problem.
One benefit of setting objectives for the meeting is to help you plan the meeting. The more concrete your meeting objectives, the more focused your agenda will be. A second important benefit of having specific objectives for each meeting is that you have a concrete measure against which you can evaluate that meeting. Were you successful in meeting the objectives? Why or why not? Is another meeting required? Setting meeting objectives allows you to continuously improve your effective meeting process.
3. Provide an Agenda Beforehand
Provide all participants with an agenda before the meeting starts. Your agenda needs to include a brief description of the meeting objectives, a list of the topics to be covered and a list stating who will address each topic and for how long. When you send the agenda, you should include the time, date and location of the meeting and any background information participants will need to know to hold an informed discussion on the meeting topic. What's the most important thing you should do with your agenda? Follow it closely!
4. Assign Meeting Preparation
Give all participants something to prepare for the meeting, and that meeting will take on a new significance to each group member. For problem-solving meetings, have the group read the background information necessary to get down to business in the meeting. Ask each group member to think of one possible solution to the problem to get everyone thinking about the meeting topic. For example, to start a sales meeting on a positive note, have all participants recall their biggest success since the last meeting and ask one person to share his success with the group. For less formal meetings or brainstorming sessions, ask a trivia question related to the meeting topic and give the correct answer in the first few minutes of the meeting. These tips are sure-fire ways to warm up the group and direct participants' attention to the meeting objectives.
5. Assign Action Items
Don't finish any discussion in the meeting without deciding how to act on it. Listen for key comments that flag potential action items and don't let them pass by without addressing them during your meeting. Statements such as We should really…, that's a topic for a different meeting…, or I wonder if we could… are examples of comments that should trigger action items to get a task done, hold another meeting or further examine a particular idea. Assigning tasks and projects as they arise during the meeting means that your follow-through will be complete. Addressing off-topic statements during the meeting in this way also allows you to keep the meeting on track. By immediately addressing these statements with the suggestion of making an action item to examine the issue outside of the current meeting, you show meeting participants that you value their input as well as their time.
6. Examine Your Meeting Process
Assign the last few minutes of every meeting as time to review the following questions: What worked well in this meeting? What can we do to improve our next meeting? Every participant should briefly provide a point-form answer to these questions. Answers to the second question should be phrased in the form of a suggested action. For example, if a participant's answer is stated as Jim was too long-winded, ask the participant to re-phrase the comment as an action. The statement We should be more to-the-point when stating our opinions is a more constructive suggestion. Remember – don't leave the meeting without assessing what took place and making a plan to improve the next meeting!

Effective Meetings - Tips
The following are some tips to help you make your next meeting successful, effective and maybe even fun.
Before The Meeting
1. Define the purpose of the meeting.
2. Develop an agenda in cooperation with key participants. See a sample agenda.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Use visual aids for interest (e.g., posters, diagrams, etc.). Post a large agenda up front to which members can refer.
8. Vary meeting places if possible to accommodate different members. Be sure everyone knows where and when the next meeting will be held.
During The Meeting
1. Greet members and make them feel welcome, even late members when appropriate.
2. If possible, serve light refreshments; they are good icebreakers and make your members feel special and comfortable.
3. Start on time. End on time.
4. Review the agenda and set priorities for the meeting.
5. Stick to the agenda.
Running Effective Meetings - Tips and Tricks
6. 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.
7. Encourage feedback. Ideas, activities and commitment to the organization improve when members see their impact on the decision making process.
8. 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.
9. Keep minutes of the meeting for future reference in case a question or problem arises.
10. As a leader, be a role model by listening, showing interest, appreciation and confidence in members. Admit mistakes.
11. Summarize agreements reached and 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.
12. Set a date, time and place for the next meeting.
After The Meeting
1. Write up and distribute minutes within 3 or 4 days. Quick action reinforces importance of meeting and reduces errors of memory.
2. Discuss any problems during the meeting with other officers; come up with ways improvements can be made.
3. Follow-up on delegation decisions. See that all members understand and carry-out their responsibilities.
4. Give recognition and appreciation to excellent and timely progress.
5. Put unfinished business on the agenda for the next meeting.
6. 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!
September 1992

The importance of regular staff meetings

by Cindy Rondberg, C.A.

Weekly, or at least monthly staff meetings are essential for building and maintaining a smooth‑running practice. If your office has not yet adopted the weekly staff meeting routine, suggest it to your doctor immediately!
The busier the practice, the more the staff meeting is needed, because there is less time to discuss important issues that come up during the day. It is equally important for smaller practices to devote this time, to organize and discuss ideas for building the practice.
The first essential tool for your staff meeting is to the agenda. Decide what topics will be discussed (and in what order). That way, everyone isn't trying to discuss different topics at the same time! When that happens, the meetings will create frustration instead of helping organize your office.
As a C.A., keep a notebook handy during work write down questions or concerns which may come up during the day, to be discussed at the next staff meeting.
Make sure your office meetings are written in your appointment book, so everyone is aware of the meetings. Even when it seems there is nothing of interest to discuss, matters of importance will always come up once you take the time to sit down together.
All staff members should have individual folders with their names on them. They should check their folders each day for messages. A memo can be placed in the folder notifying them of staff meetings, telephone messages, etc.
The best time for your staff meetings is in the morning, before office hours, when everyone is fresh and alert. Thirty minutes is standard to conduct regular business, but be sure you allow yourself enough time to discuss all matters on your agenda.
I always recommend that each meeting ends with a review of office statistics for that week. The C.A. should have these figures prepared ahead of the meetings. The statistics should include number of patient visits for the week, number of new patients and total collections. It is extremely important for each "team member" (doctors and C.A.s) in your office to know exactly where you are in each one of these areas, and where you want to be. Developing a practice and maintaining steady growth is very difficult if there are no goals in mind.
Picturing tomorrow
Visualizing your goals will focus attention on your goals. We automatically do this everyday without realizing it. For example, when it is time to go to work, we prepare ourselves by getting dressed, getting into our car and driving towards our destination. If we got into our car without a final destination, or goal, we would drive around aimlessly for an uncertain amount of time. Instead, we know where it is we want to be and we take those steps necessary to accomplish it.
This is the same principle in goal‑setting. Even if there is just one C.A. and one doctor, you make a team. If all members of the team are aware of where they want to be, the task of getting there becomes easy. If one or two team members do not participate in this, it is like getting a flat tire along the way. You will be sidetracked or detained from your destination.
The doctor needs to determine the ideal number of patients to see in a week, as well as the number of new patients and an income level. Then, the doctor should discuss this at the staff meeting. A short visualization period is nice to center each person on your goals and end each meeting on a positive note.
The doctor can instruct the others to close their eyes and visualize the number of patients desired coming into your clinic. Use your imagination and actually see these new patients calling you to schedule appointments, and coming through your door. Visualize your waiting room filled with patients and see them leaving happy and satisfied with their care.
It is so simple and requires such little time to take control of your mind, your goals and your future!
Sample agenda
1. Discuss problems in collections, insurance company and attorney matters.
2. Discuss comments or requests made by patients during the week.
3. Discuss matters concerning changes in office routine, such as: change in lunch periods, hours, vacation time, etc.
4. Announce weekly office statistics.
5. Open discussion on ideas for generating more referrals.
6. Do visualization!

Top 10 Benefits of Live Meeting

Live Meeting can help you participate in meetings around the world, at a moment's notice, and at a fraction of the cost. Here are the top 10 ways Live Meeting can help you be more productive.
Travel less.
Travel less.
Communicating and collaborating online and in real time means you don't need to leave your desk to conduct effective meetings with others. Save time and money by meeting online and avoid all the hassles of business travel.

Increase productivity.
Increase productivity.
Spend your time wisely and avoid downtime associated with getting to and from your meetings. You can meet more frequently with customers, colleagues and business partners, thereby increasing your business output in the same amount of time.

Reduce costs.
Reduce costs.
By conducting online meetings, online training and online events, Live Meeting offers an impressive return on your investment over the cost of conducting business face-to-face.

Easily collaborate.
Easily collaborate.
With a familiar and easy-to-use environment, all you need is a computer with an Internet connection to conduct your online meetings. Live Meeting works directly with your other business productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office and Windows Messenger.

Use one service for all your online meetings.
Use one service for all your online meetings.
With a flexible meeting environment that supports all types of online meetings, from small collaborative team meetings to training and even events with thousands of participants, Live Meeting is the perfect solution for conducting effective meetings when one or more participants are remote.

Deliver effective online presentations.
Deliver effective online presentations.
With Live Meeting, you can deliver remote presentations as effectively as being there in person. With full support for Microsoft Office PowerPoint animations and transitions, and the ability to receive real-time feedback from your audience, you can successfully get your point across without having to be in the same room.

Extend your customer base - without geographical limits.
Extend your customer base - without geographical limits.
Widen your potential client and customer base. Easily access people - no matter where they are. Reach more people in less time and at a fraction of the cost of being there in person.

Collaborate in real time.
Collaborate in real time.
Share, collaborate on and discuss your projects in real time. Windows of opportunity are short, and you can't afford to wait for everyone to be in the same place at the same time. Make critical decisions quickly, with all the stakeholders, regardless of geography.

Get easy administration and deployment.
Get easy administration and deployment.
Whether you are a company with five employees or 50,000 you can easily enable everyone in your organisation to conduct effective online meetings. With a variety of administration tools, you can comply with corporate policies and easily manage users of the Live Meeting service.

Get reliability you can count on.
Get reliability you can count on.
With a proven track record and a focus on scalable and reliable service, Live Meeting enables you to conduct your online meetings, training and events at a moment's notice, anytime, anywhere.

Running meetings

Planning and running effective meetings for business, corporate, sales, managing, mediation, strategic planning and team-building

Here are the rules for running meetings. Meetings are vital for management and communication. Properly run meetings save time, increase motivation, productivity, and solve problems. Meetings create new ideas and initiatives. Meetings achieve buy-in. Meetings prevent 'not invented here' syndrome. Meetings diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot. Meetings are effective because the written word only carries 7% of the true meaning and feeling. Meetings are better than telephone conferences because only 38% of the meaning and feeling is carried in the way that things are said. The other 55% of the meaning and feeling is carried in facial expression and non-verbal signals. That's why meetings are so useful. (Statistics from research by Dr Albert Mehrabian.)
Hold meetings, even if it's difficult to justify the time. Plan, run and follow up meetings properly, and they will repay the cost many times over because there is still no substitute for physical face-to-face meetings. Hold meetings to manage teams and situations, and achieve your objectives quicker, easier, at less cost. Hold effective meetings to make people happier and more productive.
Brainstorming meetings are immensely powerful for team-building, creativity, decision-making and problem-solving (see the brainstorming section).
See also how to run workshops and workshop meetings.
Techniques of goal planning and project management are useful for running effective meetings.
Presentation skills and delegation abilities are helpful in meetings, and so is a basic understanding of motivation and personality.
Problem solving and decision-making are important in many meetings, although always consider how much of these responsibilities you can give to the group, which typically depends on their experience and the seriousness of the issue.
Meetings which involve people and encourage participation and responsibility are more constructive than meetings in which the leader tells, instructs and makes all the decisions, which is not a particularly productive style of leadership.
Holding meetings is an increasingly expensive activity, hence the need to run meetings well. Badly run meetings waste time, money, resources, and are worse than having no meetings at all.
The need to run effective meetings is more intense than ever in modern times, given ever-increasing pressures on people's time, and the fact that people are rarely now based in the same location, due to mobile working and progressively 'globalised' teams and organisational structures.
New technology provides several alternatives to the conventional face-to-face meeting around a table, for example phone and video-conferencing, increasingly mobile and web-based. These 'virtual meeting' methods save time and money, but given the advantages of physical face-to-face communications (see the Mehrabian theory) there will always be a trade-off between the efficiencies of 'virtual meetings' (phone and video-conferencing notably) and the imperfections of remote communications methods (notably the inability to convey body language effectively via video conferencing, and the inability to convey body language and facial expressions by phone communications).
Accordingly, choose meeting methods that are appropriate for the situation. Explore other options such as telephone conferencing and video conferencing before deciding that a physical meeting is required, and decide what sort of meeting is appropriate for the situation. Subject to obvious adaptations and restrictions, the main principles of running physical face-to-face meetings apply to running virtual meetings.
Physical face-to-face meetings are the most effective type of meetings for conveying feelings and meanings. Therefore it is not sensible or fair to hold a virtual (phone or video-conferencing) meeting about a very serious matter. Understand that meaning and feelings can be lost or confused when people are not physically sitting in the same room as each other. Trying to save time and money by holding virtual meetings for serious matters is often a false economy for the organisation, and can actually be very unfair to staff if the matter significantly affects their personal futures or well-being.
A meeting provides a special opportunity to achieve organisational outcomes, and also to help the attendees in a variety of ways, so approach all meetings keeping in mind these two different mutually supporting aims.
The aim and test of a well run meeting is that whatever the subject, people feel afterwards that it took care of their needs, as well as the items on the agenda.

Factors affecting how best to run meetings

Your choice of structure and style in running an effective meeting is hugely dependent on several factors:
  • the situation (circumstances, mood, atmosphere, background, etc)
  • the organizational context (the implications and needs of the business or project or organization)
  • the team, or the meeting delegates (the needs and interests of those attending)
  • you yourself (your own role, confidence, experience, your personal aims, etc)
  • your position and relationship with the team
  • and of course the aims of the meeting.
There will always be more than one aim, because aside from the obvious reason(s) for the meeting, all meetings bring with them the need and opportunity to care for and/or to develop people, as individuals and/or as a team.
When you run a meeting you are making demands on people's time and attention. When you run meeting you have an authority to do so, which you must use wisely.
This applies also if the people at the meeting are not your direct reports, and even if they are not a part of your organization.
Whatever the apparent reason for the meeting, you have a responsibility to manage the meeting so that it is a positive and helpful experience for all who attend.
Having this aim, alongside the specific meeting objective(s), will help you develop an ability and reputation for running effective meetings that people are happy to attend.
Having a good understanding of other areas of management, including many featured on this website, will improve your overall ability to run meetings, for example:
  • delegation
  • goal planning
  • project management
  • the Tuckman model of team maturity and development
  • the Tannenbaum and Schmidt model of team development
  • personality and styles
  • facilitative decision-making (Sharon Drew Morgen's methodology - it's not just for selling)
  • ethical and social responsibility considerations (ethical reference points are essential)

meetings - basic rules

Here is a solid basic structure for most types of meetings. This assumes you have considered properly and decided that the meeting is necessary, and also that you have decided (via consultation with those affected if necessary or helpful) what sort of meeting to hold.
1.      plan - use the agenda as a planning tool
2.      circulate the meeting agenda in advance
3.      run the meeting - keep control, agree outcomes, actions and responsibilities, take notes
4.      write and circulate notes - especially actions and accountabilities
5.      follow up agreed actions and responsibilities
Meetings come in all shapes and sizes, and for lots of purposes.
Meeting purposes include:
  • giving information
  • training
  • discussion (leading to an objective)
  • generating ideas
  • planning
  • workshops
  • consulting and getting feedback
  • finding solutions/solving problems
  • crisis management
  • performance reporting/assessment
  • setting targets and objectives
  • setting tasks and delegating
  • making decisions
  • conveying /clarifying policy issues
  • team building
  • motivating
  • special subjects - guest speakers
  • inter-departmental - process improvement
The acronym POSTAD TV helps to remember how to plan effective meetings, and particularly how to construct the meeting agenda, and then notify the meeting delegates:
Priorities, Outcomes, Sequence, Timings, Agenda, Date, Time, Venue.

Meeting priorities

What is the meeting's purpose, or purposes? Always have a clear purpose; otherwise don't have a meeting. Decide the issues for inclusion in the meeting and their relative priority: importance and urgency - they are quite different and need treating in different ways. Important matters do not necessarily need to be resolved quickly. Urgent matters generally do not warrant a lot of discussion. Matters that are both urgent and important are clearly serious priorities that need careful planning and management.
You can avoid the pressure for 'Any Other Business' at the end of the meeting if you circulate a draft agenda in advance of the meeting, and ask for any other items for consideration. ('Any Other Business' often creates a free-for-all session that wastes time, and gives rise to new tricky expectations, which if not managed properly then closes the meeting on a negative note.)

Meeting outcomes

Decide the type of outcome (i.e., what is the purpose) for each issue, and put this on the agenda alongside the item heading. This is important as people need to know what is expected of them, and each item will be more productive with a clear aim at the outset. Typical types of outcomes are:
  • Decision
  • Discussion
  • Information
  • Planning (e.g. workshop session)
  • Generating ideas
  • Getting feedback
  • Finding solutions
  • Agreeing (targets, budgets, aims, etc)
  • Policy statement
  • Team-building/motivation
  • Guest speaker - information, initiatives, etc.

Meeting sequence

Put the less important issues at the top of the agenda, not the bottom. If you put them on the bottom you may never get to them because you'll tend to spend all the time on the big issues.
Ensure any urgent issues are placed up the agenda. Non-urgent items place down the agenda - if you are going to miss any you can more easily afford to miss these.
Try to achieve a varied mix through the running order - if possible avoid putting heavy controversial items together - vary the agenda to create changes in pace and intensity.
Be aware of the tendency for people to be at their most sensitive at the beginning of meetings, especially if there are attendees who are keen to stamp their presence on proceedings. For this reason it can be helpful to schedule a particularly controversial issue later in the sequence, which gives people a chance to settle down and relax first, and maybe get some of the sparring out of their systems over less significant items.
Also be mindful of the lull that generally affects people after lunch, so try to avoid scheduling the most boring item of the agenda at this time; instead after lunch get people participating and involved, whether speaking, presenting, debating or doing other active things.

Meeting timings (of agenda items)

Consider the time required for the various items rather than habitually or arbitrarily decide the length of the meeting. Allocate a realistic time slot for each item. Keep the timings realistic - usually things take longer than you think.
Long meetings involving travel for delegates require pre-meeting refreshments 30 minutes prior to the actual meeting start time.
Put plenty of breaks into long meetings. Unless people are participating and fully involved, their concentration begins to drop after just 45 minutes. Breaks don't all need to be 20 minutes for coffee and cigarettes. Five minutes every 45-60 minutes for a quick breath of fresh air and leg-stretch will help keep people attentive.
Unless you have a specific reason for arranging one, avoid formal sit-down restaurant lunches - they'll add at least 30 minutes unnecessarily to the lunch break, and the whole thing makes people drowsy. Working lunches are great, but make sure you give people 10-15 minutes to get some fresh air and move about outside the meeting room. If the venue is only able to provide lunch in the restaurant, arrange a buffet, or if a sit-down meal is unavoidable save some time by the giving delegates' menu choices to the restaurant earlier in the day.
It's not essential, but it is usually helpful, to put precise (planned) times for each item on the agenda. What is essential however is for you to have thought about and planned the timings so you can run the sessions according to a schedule. In other words, if the delegates don't have precise timings on their agendas - make sure you have them on yours. This is one of the biggest responsibilities of the person running the meeting, and is a common failing, so plan and manage this aspect firmly. People will generally expect you to control the timekeeping, and will usually respect a decision to close a discussion for the purpose of good timekeeping, even if the discussion is still in full flow.

Meeting attendees

It's often obvious who should attend; but sometimes it isn't. Consider inviting representatives from other departments to your own department meetings - if relationships are not great they will often appreciate being asked, and it will help their understanding of your issues, and your understanding of theirs.
Having outside guests from internal and external suppliers helps build relationships and strengthen the chain of supply, and they can often also shed new light on difficult issues too. Use your discretion though - certain sensitive issues should obviously not be aired with 'outsiders' present.
Avoid and resist senior managers and directors attending your meetings unless you can be sure that their presence will be positive, and certainly not intimidating. Senior people are often quick to criticize and pressurize without knowing the facts, which can damage team relationships, morale, motivation and trust.
If you must have the boss at your meeting, try to limit their involvement to lunch only, or presenting the awards at the end of the meeting. In any event, tell your boss what you are trying to achieve at the meeting and how - this gives you more chance in controlling possible interference.

Meeting date

Ensure the date you choose causes minimum disruption for all concerned. It's increasingly difficult to gather people for meetings, particularly from different departments or organizations. So take care when finding the best date - it's a very important part of the process, particularly if senior people are involved.
For meetings that repeat on a regular basis the easiest way to set dates is to agree them in advance at the first meeting when everyone can commit there and then. Try to schedule a year's worth of meetings if possible, then you can circulate and publish the dates, which helps greatly to ensure people keep to them and that no other priorities encroach.
Pre-planning meeting dates is one of the keys to achieving control and well-organized meetings. Conversely, leaving it late to agree dates for meetings will almost certainly inconvenience people, which is a major source of upset.
Generally try to consult to get agreement of best meeting dates for everyone, but ultimately you will often need to be firm. Use the 'inertia method', i.e., suggest a date and invite alternative suggestions, rather than initially asking for suggestions, which rarely achieves a quick agreement.

Meeting time

Times to start and finish depend on the type and duration of the meeting and the attendees' availability, but generally try to start early, or finish at the end of the working day. Two-hour meetings in the middle of the day waste a lot of time in travel. Breakfast meetings are a good idea in certain cultures, but can be too demanding in more relaxed environments. If attendees have long distances to travel (i.e., more than a couple of hours, consider overnight accommodation on the night before.
If the majority have to stay overnight it's often worth getting the remainder to do so as well because the team building benefits from evening socializing are considerable, and well worth the cost of a hotel room. Overnight accommodation the night before also allows for a much earlier start. By the same token, consider people's traveling times after the meeting, and don't be unreasonable - again offer overnight accommodation if warranted - it will allow a later finish, and generally keep people happier.
As with other aspects of the meeting arrangements, if in doubt always ask people what they prefer. Why guess when you can find out what people actually want, especially if the team is mature and prefers to be consulted anyway.

Meeting venue

Many meetings are relatively informal, held in meeting rooms 'on-site' and do not warrant extensive planning of the venue as such. On the other hand, big important meetings held off-site at unfamiliar venues very definitely require a lot of careful planning of the venue layout and facilities. Plan the venue according to the situation - leave nothing to chance.
Venue choice is critical for certain sensitive meetings, but far less so for routine, in-house gatherings. Whatever, there are certain preparations that are essential, and never leave it all to the hotel conference organizer or your own facilities department unless you trust them implicitly. Other people will do their best but they're not you, and they can't know exactly what you want. You must ensure the room is right - mainly, that it is big enough with all relevant equipment and services. It's too late to start hunting for a 20ft power extension lead five minutes before the meeting starts.
Other aspects that you need to check or even set up personally are:
  • table and seating layout
  • top-table (if relevant) position
  • tables for demonstration items, paperwork, hand-outs, etc
  • electricity power points and extensions
  • heating and lighting controls
  • projection and flip chart equipment positioning and correct operation
  • whereabouts of toilets and emergency exits - fire drill
  • confirm reception and catering arrangements
  • back-up equipment contingency
All of the above can and will go wrong unless you check and confirm - when you book the venue and then again a few days before the meeting.
For a big important meeting, you should also arrive an hour early to check everything is as you want it. Some meetings are difficult enough without having to deal with domestic or logistics emergencies; and remember if anything goes wrong it reflects on you - it's your credibility, reputation and control that's at stake.
Positioning of seating and tables is important, and for certain types of meetings it's crucial. Ensure the layout is appropriate for the occasion:
  • Formal presentations to large groups - theatre-style - the audience in rows, preferably with tables, facing the chairman.
  • Medium-sized participative meetings - horse-shoe (U) table layout with the open part of the U facing the chairman's table, or delegates' tables arranged 'cabaret' style.
  • Small meetings for debate and discussion - board-room style - one rectangular table with chairman at one end.
  • Relaxed team meetings for planning and creative sessions - lounge style, with easy chairs and coffee tables.
Your own positioning in relation to the group is important. If you are confident and comfortable and your authority is in no doubt you should sit close to the others, and can even sit among people. If you expect challenge or need to control the group strongly set yourself further away and clearly central, behind a top-table at the head of things.
Ensure everyone can see screens and flip charts properly - actually sit in the chairs to check - you'll be surprised how poor the view is from certain positions.
Set up of projectors and screens is important - strive for the perfect rectangular image, as this gives a professional, controlled impression as soon as you start. Experiment with the adjustment of projector and screen until it's how you want it. If you are using LCD projector and overhead projector (a rare beast these days) you may need two screens. A plain white wall is often better than a poor screen.
People from the western world read from left to right, so if you want to present anything in order using different media, set it up so that people can follow it naturally from left to right. For instance show introductory bullet points (say on a flip chart on the left - as the audience sees it) and the detail for each point (say on projector and screen on the right).
Position screens and flip chart where they can be used comfortably without obscuring the view. Ensure the speaker/chairman's position is to the side of the screen, not in front of it obscuring the view.
Ensure any extension leads and wiring is taped to the floor or otherwise safely covered and protected.
Supply additional flip chart easels and paper, or write-on acetates and pens, for syndicate work if applicable. You can also ask people to bring laptops for exercises and presentation to the group assuming you have LCD projector is available and compatible.
In venues that have not been purpose-built for modern presentations, sometimes the lighting is problematical. If there are strong fluorescent lights above the screen that cannot be switched off independently, it is sometimes possible for them to be temporarily disconnected (by removing the starter, which is a small plastic cylinder plugged into the side of the tube holder). In older buildings it sometimes possible to temporarily remove offending light-bulbs if they are spoiling the visual display, but always enlist the help of one of the venue's staff rather than resorting to DIY.
Finally, look after the venue's staff - you need them on your side. Most business users treat hotel and conference staff disdainfully - show them some respect and appreciation and they will be more than helpful.

Meeting planner checklist

There's a lot to remember, so, particularly for big important meetings and training sessions, use a meetings checklist to make sure you plan properly and don't miss anything:
Meetings Checklist












Notes of last meeting


Materials (as required by agenda items)

Reference material for ad-hoc queries

Results and performance data

Equipment (make separate check-list)

Electrical Power (if applicable)


Catering arrangements

Note-paper, pens, name-plates


Guest care/instructions

Meeting agenda

Produce the meeting agenda. This is the tool with which you control the meeting. Include all the relevant information and circulate it in advance. If you want to avoid having the ubiquitous and time-wasting 'Any Other Business' on your agenda, circulate the agenda well in advance and ask for additional items to be submitted for consideration.
Formal agendas for board meetings and committees will normally have an established fixed format, which applies for every meeting. This type of formal agenda normally begins with:
1.      apologies for absence
2.      approval of previous meeting's minutes (notes)
3.      matters arising (from last meeting)
and then the main agenda, finishing with 'any other business'.
For more common, informal meetings (departmental, sales teams, projects, ad-hoc issues, etc), try to avoid the formality and concentrate on practicality. For each item, explain the purpose, and if a decision is required, say so. If it's a creative item, say so. If it's for information, say so. Put timings, or time-per-item, or both (having both is helpful for you as the chairman). If you have guest speakers or presenters for items, name them. Plan coffee breaks and a lunch break if relevant, and ensure the caterers are informed. Aside from these formal breaks you should allow natural 'comfort' breaks every 45-60 minutes, or people lose concentration and the meeting becomes less productive.

Sample meeting agenda

(Meeting Title) Monthly Sales Meeting - New Co - Southern Region
(Venue, Time, Date) Conference Room, New Co, Newtown - 0900hrs Monday 09/05/04    
Coffee available from 0830hrs - Dress is smart casual.  

Warm up and introductions.

New starters Sue Smith and Ken Brown. Guests are Jane Green, Fleet Manager; Jim Long, Off-shore Product Manager; and Bill Sykes, Tech-range Chief Engineer.
Health and safety update.
Revised procedures for hazardous chemicals at Main Street production facility.
Product revision update.
Tech-range Model 3 now has stand-by mode control. Product will be demonstrated.
Chance for hands-on the new Model 3.
Sales results & forecasts.
Ensure you bring qtr2 forecast data and be prepared to present prospect lists and activities. 

New product launch.

The new Digi-range is launched in month five. Product demonstrations and presentation of performance data, USP's, benefits for key sectors, and details of launch promotion.

Major accounts initiatives.

Brainstorm session - How can we accelerate major accounts development in offshore sector? - Do some preparatory thinking about this please.
Buffet in the meeting room.

New product launch.

The new Digi-range is launched in month five. Product demonstrations and presentation of performance data, USP's, benefits for key sectors, and details of launch promotion.

New Company Car Scheme.
Presentation from Fleet Manager Jane Green about the new car scheme.
Awards and Incentive.
Qtr 1 Sales Awards and launch of Qtr 2 Sales Incentive.
Meeting review, questions, close.


running the meeting

The key to success is keeping control. You do this by sticking to the agenda, managing the relationships and personalities, and concentrating on outcomes. Meetings must have a purpose. Every item must have a purpose. Remind yourself and the group of the required outcomes and steer the proceedings towards making progress, not hot air.
Politely suppress the over-zealous, and encourage the nervous. Take notes as you go, recording the salient points and the agreed actions, with names, measurable outcomes and deadlines. Do not record everything word-for-word, and if you find yourself taking over the chairmanship of a particularly stuffy group which produces reams of notes and very little else, then change things. Concentrate on achieving the outcomes you set the meeting when you drew up the agenda. Avoid racing away with decisions if your aim was simply discussion and involving people. Avoid hours of discussion if you simply need a decision. Avoid debate if you simply need to convey a policy issue. Policy is policy and that is that.
Defer new issues to another time. Practice and use the phrase 'You may have a point, but it's not for this meeting - we'll discuss it another time.' (And then remember to do it.)
If you don't know the answer say so - be honest - don't waffle - say that you'll get back to everyone with the answer, or append it to the meeting notes.
If someone persistently moans on about a specific issue that is not on the agenda, quickly translate it into a simple exploratory or investigative project, and bounce it back to them, with a deadline to report back their findings and recommendations to you.
Use the rules on delegation to help you manage people and tasks and outcomes through meetings.
Always look at how people are behaving in meetings - look for signs of tiredness, exasperation, and confusion, and take necessary action.
As a general rule, don't deviate from the agenda, but if things get very heavy, and the next item is very heavy too, swap it around for something participative coming later on the agenda - a syndicate exercise, or a team game, a quiz, etc.

Meetings notes or meetings minutes

Who takes the meeting notes or minutes, keeps command (minutes is a more traditional term, and today describes more formal meetings notes).
You must take the notes yourself, unless the meeting format dictates a formal secretary, in which case ensure the secretary is on your side. Normally you'll be able to take the notes. They are your instrument of control, so don't shirk it or give them to someone else as the 'short straw'.
If you are seen to take the notes, two things happen:
  • people respect you for not forcing them to do it
  • people see that you are recording agreed actions, so there's no escaping them
Meeting notes are essential for managing meeting actions and outcomes. They also cement agreements and clarify confusions. They also prevent old chestnuts reappearing. A meeting without notes is mostly pointless. Actions go unrecorded and therefore forgotten. Attendees feel that the meeting was largely pointless because there's no published record.
After the meeting, type the notes (it's usually quicker for you to do it), and circulate them straight away, copy to all attendees, including date of next meeting if applicable, and copy to anyone else who should see the notes.
The notes should be brief or people won't read them, but they must still be precise and clear. Include relevant facts, figures, accountabilities, actions and timescales. Any agreed actions must be clearly described, with person or persons named responsible, with a deadline. See again rules of delegation. Use the acronym SMART for any agreed action (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, and Time bound). See more acronyms for meetings and training sessions on the acronyms page, there are lots of useful tips there.
The final crucial element is following up the agreed actions (your own included). If you run a great meeting, issue great notes, and then fail to ensure the actions are completed, all is lost, not least your credibility. You must follow up agreed actions and hold people to them. If you don't they will very soon learn that they can ignore these agreements every time - negative conditioning - it's the death of managing teams and results. By following up agreed actions, at future meetings particularly, (when there is an eager audience waiting to see who's delivered and who hasn't), you will positively condition your people to respond and perform, and you will make meetings work for you and your team.
See also the brainstorming meeting techniques.

Meeting notes structure and template

Here is a simple structure for formal meeting notes involving a group of people within an organization:
  • Heading: for example - Notes of Management Meeting (if a one-off meeting to consider a specific issue then include purpose in the heading as appropriate)
  • Date and Time:
  • Venue:
  • Present:
  • Apologies for absence:
  • In attendance: (if appropriate - guests not normally present at regular meetings, for instance speakers or non-board-members at board meetings)
Followed by numbered agenda items, typically:
  • 1. Approval of previous meeting notes/minutes:
  • 2. Matters arising: (items arising from meeting or continued from previous meeting which would not be covered by normal agenda items)
And then other items as per agenda, for example (these are some of the many possible typical reports and meeting items discussed within a business or board meeting; other types of meetings would have different item headings):
  • 3. Finance/financial performance
  • 4. Sales
  • 5. Marketing and Business Development
  • 6. Operations or Divisional Activities
  • 7. Manufacturing
  • 8. Distribution
  • 9. Environmental
  • 10. Quality Assurance, etc
  • 11. Human Resources
  • 12. Projects
  • 13. Communications and Team Briefing Core Brief
  • 14. Any other business (AOB - issues not covered under other agenda items)
  • 15. Date of next meeting
  • Time meeting finished (normally for formal meetings only)
  • Signed and dated as a true record (signed by the chair-person - normally for formal meetings only)
  • Writer's initials, file reference and date (useful on all types of meeting notes)
Normally the items and points within each item are numbered 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc., then 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, etc.
Importantly, all actions agreed in the meeting need to be allocated to persons present at the meeting. It is not normally appropriate or good practice to allocate an action to someone who is not present at the meeting. Actions that are agreed but not allocated to anyone will rarely be implemented. (See the article on delegation.)
Responsibility for actions can be identified with a person's name or initials as appropriate.
Action points and persons responsible can be highlighted or detailed in a right-margin column if helpful.
These days verbatim minutes (precise word-for-word records) are only used in the most formal situations. Modern meeting notes should ideally concentrate on actions and agreements.
Reports should if possible be circulated in advance of meetings giving delegates adequate time to read and formulate reactions and answers to any queries raised. It is not good practice to table a report at a meeting if opportunity exists to circulate the report beforehand.
Reports can be appended to the meeting notes or minutes to which they relate.

Meeting notes template

Date and Time:
Apologies for absence:
In attendance:
notes, agreements and actions (change item headings as applicable)
person responsible for each action agreed
1. Approval of previous meeting notes/minutes:
2. Matters arising:
3. Finance/financial performance
4. Sales
5. Marketing and Business Development
6. Operations or Divisional Activities
7. Manufacturing
8. Distribution
9. Environmental
10. Quality Assurance, etc
11. Human Resources
12. Projects
13. Communications and Team Briefing Core Brief
14. Any other business
15. Date of next meeting

 Time meeting finished:  
 Signed and dated as a true record.............................  
 Writer's initials, file reference and date:  

Mediation and running mediation meetings

Ensure you have a clear agenda - ensure both sides submit items for inclusion - the agenda is the method by which you control the meeting (timings, items being discussed, staying on track, realistically intended outcomes from agenda items).
Keep insisting that each side really truly tries to learn and understand the other side's aims, objectives, feelings, background etc. Understanding is different to agreeing - very important to keep explaining this - by understanding each other there can be constructive debate towards agreement, without understanding, any agreement is impossible, so too is sensible adult discussion.
Try to agree the meeting aims with the attendees before the start - important to keep this realistic - don't try to reach agreement too early - concentrate on developing mutual understanding and to diffuse conflict and emotional issues which make it impossible to move on any further.
If the gulf is too big to make any progress at all, suggest a job swap or shadow for a week - the chief of each side should experience the other side's challenges and day-to-day difficulties. This will certainly improve mutual understanding and can accelerate improvement in cooperation and agreement.
Follow the rules of running meetings where helpful so that you plan the meeting and keep control.
When you seat people at the meeting mix them up to avoid adversarial one-side-facing-the-other situation, which will happen unless you split them up.

Strategic planning, goal setting meetings

Here's a simple process for an effective strategic planning meeting:
(This assumes that necessary market research and consultation with staff, customers and suppliers has already taken place.)
Start with the vision - what do we want this business to be in two years time?... infrastructure, staff, structure, communications and IT, customers, markets, services, products, partners, routes to market, quality and mission values, broad numbers and financials.
If delegate numbers permit, allocate syndicates a number of aspects each. Change groups as appropriate, move between whole group brainstorms to small group syndicates sessions.
If appropriate use colored modeling clay and/or construction kits to provide an interesting way for delegates to express shape, structure, etc., for each vision aspect (many people do not work well using only verbal or written media - shape and touch are essential to the creative process).
Then work on the necessary enablers, obstacles, cause-and-effect steps along the way for each aspect aim. This will result in the basic timescale and strategic plan.
And to add an extra dimension to the meeting and planning process - and too reinforce relationships with your most important customers, suppliers and partners - invite some of them along to the meeting to contribute, validate ideas and collaborate. It's a particularly useful way to make the session more dynamic and meaningful, as well as keeping the focus on the real world.

Effective Meetings

Managing Meeting Problems

If you are called upon to chair meetings, you will doubtless encounter some common problems that occur when any group of people get together.  While these problems are common, if they are left unmanaged, they will cause long term problems.  Unmanaged meeting problems will result in wasted time, frustration, and a general dread of attending meetings in which these problems occur unchecked.
Before we discuss some strategies for addressing these common problems, one basic approach needs to be stressed.  Make sure that there are agreed-upon roles and processes for the meetings.  That is, it must be clear to all attendees what is expected in terms of behavior, and how breeches of these expectations will be dealt with.  One critical role that MUST be defined is that of the chair.  Attendees and the chairperson must be on the same wavelength.
We suggest that a group that meets on a regular basis establish meeting parameters, roles and chairperson authorities early in their life cycle.  We also suggest that the group revisit these parameters periodically to see if they are working, or need revision.
Remember that when roles and authorities are not clear from the outset, meetings can deteriorate into procedural wrangling" those are largely unproductive.  Get the roles clear from the beginning so that you will not have to deal with them in each and every meeting.  


Some people are naturally long-winded.  They talk a lot.  Unfortunately, long-winded people can monopolize meeting time, and turn off other meeting participants.
If you are chairing a meeting with long-winded people in attendance, you need to take some action.  The general rule to any intervention is to start with the most subtle or mild approach, and then increase "force" as required.
Try using a non-verbal "stop sign".  One common one is holding up one's hand, palm outward towards the speaker.  Generally, this will be better received by the speaker if it is accompanied by a smile rather than a frown or obvious anger.  Make sure that you don't thrust your hand too quickly, since that will be considered an aggressive act.
Another non-verbal tactic is the "Aha sign".  The "aha sign" consists of one finger held up, and is used to signify that you are enthusiastic about a point the speaker has made.  Generally, you will follow up this sign with a comment like "John, your point about x is excellent.  I really want to hear what Barb thinks about that idea."  You couple the non-verbal sign with what we call a "redirect" cue (see next point).
Use the redirect cue to signify that you want another person to respond to the issue.  It is best to jump in when the speaker is catching a breath, saying something like "Mary, thank you for your ideas.  Brent, do you have any comments on whether we should [whatever]?"
Finally, you may have to take a strong stance.  For example, interrupt with "Fred, we have agreed that it is important that we accomplish x, y, and z before we leave today.  I appreciate your comments, but I am going to insist that we move on.  Perhaps if we have time at the end of the meeting, we can come back to this."  Then move immediately to the next agenda item.  Keep in mind that this approach may result in some ruffled feathers.  It may be appropriate to speak privately to the long-winded person after the meeting to explain why you felt this was necessary so that meeting goals would be met.  

Involving the Silent

Some people are naturally reticent to speak in meetings.  The chairperson must respect individual differences of this type, while at the same time setting up a climate that increases comfort levels, and inviting quiet attendees to be more involved.  
You can ask silent group members to be involved.  The way you do it is important.  The best approach to involve a shyer person is to pose a specific question to that person.  The question should be one that the person can answer easily.  After the initial answer, you can probe for more detail.  For example:
Chair:   John, you talk to more customers than any of us.  Do they ever talk about what they   want from us?
John:   Uhh...sometimes.
Chair:   What kinds of things do they tell you?
Managing Disputes
Conflict in meetings can be productive.  If the conflict energy can be funneled into developing constructive solutions, new ideas can emerge from the conflict.  However, some disputes that occur in meetings are about things other than finding solutions.  They may be about personal agendas, stylistic differences, power or other things.  Meetings are usually not the best place to address these agendas.
Disputes that are non-constructive are characterized by lack of listening, personal attacks or innuendo, and hostile tones of voice.  
First, the chair should avoid taking sides if the dispute is non-constructive, although if the chair is also the group manager, it may be necessary to supply an arbitrary solution.  If the chair is at the same organizational level as the disputing parties, stay away from taking a side.
Second, stop the dispute early.  As soon as you see signs that the discussion is becoming non-constructive or insulting, jump in.  For example, you can say something like "I don't think we are going to resolve your disagreement at this point, so I am going to ask that we move on.  John and Mary may want to talk about this in private."
Or, "Remember that we agreed that we would discuss issues rather than personalities.  If we can return to the issue at hand, we can continue this important discussion, otherwise I am going to ask that we stop now."
Third, don't become involved emotionally.  React calmly and firmly, not with anger.

Finally, if a full scale verbal brawl ensues, consider adjourning the meeting.  A coffee break may be enough to cool off tempers.  If not, the meeting may have to be stopped.  There is no point having non-constructive angry discussions where nobody is listening.  


The chairperson plays important roles in managing meeting problems that occur.  If rules have been developed by the group, it is far easier to enforce these rules without appearing to be arbitrary or heavy-handed.  By managing the long-winded, the silent people involved in disputes, a considerable amount of time can be saved, and meeting can become more productive and positive for all those attending.
Effective Meeting Strategies
The effectiveness of an organization’s meetings can determine how successful
an organization will become. Effective meetings allow the officers and the
members discuss issues, take on responsibilities, and to report back on the
progress of projects. It is through meetings that everyone can stay informed of
what is happening.
To have a successful meeting, there needs to be a basic structure to it. A great
meeting does not begin at the start time of the meeting but rather it begins
during the preparatory work done to prepare for it. Planning ahead will keep
meetings from becoming long-winded get-togethers where very little is
accomplished. There are three essential stages to running a meeting listed
below. Please click on the topic for more information.
A. Preparing for the meeting
B. Conducting the meeting
C. Evaluating the meeting
Adapted from Richard Chang and Kevin Kehoe, Meetings that Work!. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer
Preparing for the Meeting
First, your organization needs to decide who will be in charge of the meetings.
This should be outlined in your constitution and it is normally the president.
Sometimes, it is the responsibility of the secretary to create the agenda but the
president leads the meeting. If this is the case, the president and the secretary
need to work together so both know exactly what needs to be covered at the
Once your organization has a person designated as running the meeting, this
person must do all of the preparatory work to ensure a successful meeting. The
items to consider for preparation are as follows:
A. Agenda: Know what you want discussed at the meeting. This will keep the
meeting focused and will clearly tell everyone when a topic will be
B. Speakers: Determine if anyone needs to report on a project. Contact
anyone who you expect to speak and tell that individual what is
expected so he/she can come prepared.
C. Room reservations: Check to see that you have a room reserved for the
meeting. For most buildings contact Event Planning at 359-4249.

D. Meeting set-up: Be sure that the room is conducive to the type of set up
needed for the meeting. Do you want a lecture style, with one person up
front, or do you want the participants arranged in a circle to facilitate
discussion. Different meetings have different needs so make sure the
room can accommodate your needs. Get to the meeting room early so
you can set it up in the appropriate manner.
E. Materials: Have handouts, paper, pencils, pens or any other materials you
may need prepared and ready beforehand. Do not assume that people
will come prepared with pens or paper. Bring some extra materials with
F. Mars Lab: Does anyone need audio-visual equipment? Contact the Mars
Lab at 359-4875.
G. Advertise: Let your members know when the meetings are. Put up flyers
around campus to invite new members to join your organization and to
participate in a meeting. You want to give a minimum of one week’s
notice. Two weeks notice is ideal so people will be able to plan for the
meeting and put it in their schedule. If your meeting occurs at the same
time and day every month (i.e. every fourth Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.) send a
reminder at least one week in advance.
Adapted from Richard Chang and Kevin Kehoe, Meetings that Work!. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer
Conducting the Meeting
Now, that you have prepared for the meeting, notified everyone that it is
happening, you need to facilitate it in a manner that keeps everyone focused
and on task.
The following is a list of suggestions on how to conduct the meeting:
A. Start the meetings on time: Do not wait for stragglers. Begin with the
people who are there. If you wait for stragglers, the people who come on
time will start coming late because they know the meeting will start late.
Do not make people feel as if they are wasting their time.
B. Establish ground rules and guidelines: Take a moment to explain how the
meeting will run, especially if a lot of new people are present. Make sure
everyone knows that they can express their opinion when it is appropriate
to do so.
C. Follow the agenda: Keep everyone focused on the agenda. If someone
brings up an unrelated issue while discussing an item, refer that issue to the
appropriate time on the agenda and continue the discussion on the
current topic.

D. Monitor time: Keep track of the time spent on an item. Depending on
what is being discussed and if it is taking a lot of time to work through, it
can either be moved to a vote at the meeting so a decision is reached
immediately, or you might want to empower someone or a few people to
discuss the issue in more detail and come back with a report that will be
reviewed at the next meeting. Do not let discussion drag on endlessly.
This is a delicate balancing act. You want people to discuss issues, but
you do not want one issue to take up the whole meeting. Finding the
right length of time for discussion will vary based on topic, need, and
other factors. You will learn in time when it is appropriate to allow
discussion to continue and when to push for the discussion to be ended.
E. Ensure participation: Try to hear everyone’s input. Encourage people who
are quiet to give their opinions and ideas. Do not let the meeting be
dominated by one or two people.
F. Secretary’s role: Your secretary should be taking minutes. If there is a
question about what has transpired at the meeting, the secretary can
look back and respond to any questions. The secretary will also help the
president keep track of all the information produced at the meeting.
Ideas and people’s commitments should be recorded.
G. Assign task when needed: When people take on a responsibility check to
see that they understand what they are supposed to do. The secretary
should write down who took on what projects. After the meeting, you will
want to follow up with those individuals to ensure that they are moving
forward on their commitments.
H. Summarize key decisions and actions: At the end of the meeting, you
should review what has transpired. You will review who has taken on new
tasks and what decisions have been made. This helps to make sure that
everyone understands what happened at the meeting.
Adapted from Richard Chang and Kevin Kehoe, Meetings that Work!. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer

Evaluating the Meeting
After you have completed the meeting, it is a good idea to evaluate its
effectiveness. You want to get the input of your fellow officers, and if possible
talk to some of the participants to get their opinions.
To improve the meetings, it is necessary for you to be open to compliments and
criticisms. You want people to be honest about their feelings and perceptions.
Do not feel that you need to defend how you conducted the meeting; just
allow people the time to express their view.
After hearing different opinions, you want to consider those views as compared
to how you felt the meeting went. Is there room for improvement? What could
have made the meeting run more smoothly? Did the group stay focused and
on task?

Meeting Evaluation Form
Organization: _________________________
Meeting Date: _______________
Please circle the number that most clearly reflects your thoughts on the
questions listed below.
Fair Good Great Excellent
I encouraged everyone to participate.
Members were notified in advance of
meeting time and date.
The meeting started on time.
The agenda was followed.
Ground rules were reviewed.
All necessary materials were available.
Members were on-task and focused.
Time spent on each item was
The secretary was prepared with
minutes from previous meeting.
The secretary was prepared to take
Treasurer was prepared to give a
budget report.
Speakers were prepared to give their
Members participated actively in the
meeting, sharing their opinions.
Members were clear on what actions
needed to be taken.
The room set-up was conducive to the
The major decisions made at the
meeting were summarized.
Members left the meeting knowing
exactly what their responsibilities were.
Adapted from Richard Chang and Kevin Kehoe, Meetings that Work!. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.
I was prepared for the meeting.

Creating an Agenda
Meetings do not have to be long, difficult, or a waste of time. A properly
thought-out agenda shared in advance, makes all the difference. The agenda
can determine whether a meeting will be focused and meaningful or whether it
will be inefficient with people feeling it was not useful.
The agenda is the guide for the meeting. It lays out all of the information so
participants in the meeting will know what their role is. It provides the framework
that the meeting will be built upon.
To create an agenda, identify a list of items that will be necessary to achieve
the goals for the meeting. You may want to seek out suggestions and input
from other people, especially the officers. Look at the minutes from a previous
meeting and see if there is any unfinished business that needs to be resolved.
Once you have identified what needs to be discussed at the meeting, you will
need to organize all the items. There is no one set formula for an agenda and it
can be done in many ways.
Here are three tips for sequencing items effectively:
Start with the most important items, allowing the participants to make
critical decisions when their interest and energy are at their highest level.
Handle short, urgent items first so they aren’t crowded out and become
continuous “unfinished business” items.
Concentrate on fewer more important items.
Keep items in a logical order.
Next to each item on the agenda, you will write down the person responsible for
leading on that item. If you are discussing the budget, you will write the
treasurer’s name next to that item so everyone knows who will be discussing it.
You may also want to put an estimated time length like ten minutes so people
know there is a limit. If the 10-minute limit is reached, meeting participants can
vote to extend the discussion time. If they vote not to extend discussion, then
the meeting continues on to the next item on the agenda.

Do you dread attending meetings because they are dull, unproductive, disorganized and too long? With
proper planning and preparation, any meeting can be effective and enjoyable. If the facilitator starts with a
careful plan and finishes with a thorough follow-up, the meeting will run smoothly. The following are some
tips to help you make your next meeting successful, productive and fun.
Functions of Meetings:
• Give members a chance to discuss and evaluate goals and objectives.
• Keep members updated on current events.
• Provide a chance to communicate and keep the group cohesive.
• Allow the group to pull resources together for decision making.
• Make sure members are aware of their importance in the group. Ask for opinions and ideas.
Before the Meeting:
• Define the purpose(s) of the meeting with an agenda.
Sample Agenda
Approval of Agenda, any additions or retractions
Correction and Approval of Minutes (if taken and distributed)
Treasurer’s Report
Committee Reports
Unfinished Business
New Business
Special Issues/Concerns
• Distribute the agenda (e-mail works well) and background material (articles, reviews) that must be read
before the meeting.
• Set a reasonable meeting time limit, given the amount of material on the agenda
• Reserve a room through the Scheduling Office (www.willamette.edu/dept/schedule/). A separate
handout is available for more specific information on reserving a room. When reserving the room, it is
important to think about:
1. Size: Not too small to recognize each member’s personal space.
2. Arrangement: Chairs in a circle, semi-circle or U-shape allows for easy sight of all members
and all will feel included.
3. Variety: Meet in different places (not every week though) to keep their attention and
accommodate different members.
• Posters, diagrams, or even a dry erase board to display important points or decisions are all examples
of easy and productive visual aids.

Page 2
During the Meeting:
• Greet members and make them feel welcome, even late members when appropriate.
• As a leader, be a role model; listen, show interest, appreciation, and confidence in members. Admit
mistakes. Do not hold side conversations or pass notes during the meeting.
• Be professional and courteous. Allow everyone the chance to talk.
• Serve light refreshments – or even candy – when possible, they are good icebreakers and make
people relax.
• Encourage group discussion and feedback on all discussion topics. You will have better quality
decisions as well as highly motivated members that help shape the activities and the committee.
• Keep conversation focused. Tactfully end discussions when they are unproductive or becoming
• Start on time and end on time.
• Review the agenda and then stick to it.
• Appoint someone to keep minutes of the meeting for future reference.
• Summarize agreements reached and end the meeting on a positive note by asking members to
express things that they thought were good or successful.
• Set a date, time and place for the next meeting.
• Set a meeting if it is really necessary. Do not set a meeting just for the sake of having one.
After the Meeting:
• Write up and distribute minutes by the next day. Quick action reinforces the importance of the
meeting and reduces the chance of errors.
• Discuss any problems during the meeting with other officers, come up with solutions and implement
them at the next meeting.
• Follow-up on delegated tasks. See that all members understand and fulfill their responsibilities.
• Give recognition and appreciation to excellent and timely progress.
• Put unfinished business on the agenda for the next meeting.
• Conduct periodic evaluations of the meetings, either secretively or publicly. See the
Assessment Checklist
for more information.
This is one of many handouts available to you. Feel free to meet with any Student Activities staff member for
more details about this topic or any others related to leadership or your student organization. The Office of
Student Activities is located in the University Center, on the 2
floor, or by telephone at (503) 370-6463. Visit
our website at www.willamette.edu/dept/osa. Adapted from the Office of Student Activities and Leadership,
University of Michigan.

Three effective ways to anger people in meetings
By Shannon Kalvar, TechRepublic | 2007/03/09 14:35:01
We've all found ourselves in meetings where things rapidly drift off track. Conversations drift off track. Ideas are conflated, strange concepts breed in the conversational undergrowth, and an enraged leader eventually tears off his shoe and pounds on the table. Eventually a dead horse comes wandering in so everyone can engage in some ritual flagellation.
If you take away from the above that I don't much like meetings, you'd be right. That said, I do know a thing or two about how to pull them back on track. I'm also occasionally known to be abrasive, frustrating, and pushy, so take what I have to say on this matter with a grain of salt.

Step One - Ruthlessly discard the irrelevant

It's amazing how easy it is for people to drift off course when presented with irrelevant details. We create the most confounding connections between two completely unrelated pieces of data, then defend that connection to the death. The arguments about these things can last for days, weeks, even years. Even bringing them up in meetings wastes time, and wasted time is wasted life.
My personal mistake here is not so much in the ruthless winnowing out of the irrelevant as it is in my forgetfulness about the emotions involved. People attach great personal importance to the things they pursue. Otherwise, why would they bother? Just because I don't agree with them, or want to stay focused on dealing with the meeting's "mission" doesn't mean that my goal is the goal of all the other meeting participants.

Step Two - Cut people off after the third iteration

Iterations are good in projects, better in writing, and absolutely horrible in meetings. Unfortunately we seem to have learned, somewhere, repetition is the key to success in all communications. If we repeat the same words often enough others will come to believe them simply because they hear them often enough.
My personal inclination is to cut people off after they have repeated themselves for the third time. Especially when the repetitions involve something wholly irrelevant, or even worse just discovered to be irrelevant, to the meeting's purpose. As a rule, though, people tend to like their iterations. It makes them feel like they have accomplished something when they say the same things over and over again. Taking away that feeling of accomplishment will not make you popular.

Step Three - Point at the elephant in the room

The truth, any truth, is rarely welcomed in a meeting. If someone in a meeting asks you if you can "speak truth to power", what they really want to know is if you are dumb enough to point at the white elephant in the room and tell everyone about it. They already know about it; they just won't do anything about it for their own emotional, political, or practical reasons.
Me, I point at the elephant. There's a part of my personality which simply cannot, and will not, allow people to prattle on and on about something minor when we need to address the big issues. I'm working on keeping my big mouth shut, but it's kind of a struggle most days.

Effective Meeting Strategies

*       Productivity

If you manage a new or growing venture, chances are that you spend a lot of your time in meetings. Among others, meetings are critical to strategize new opportunities, assess different ways to accomplish tasks, set and update goals, and to ensure that all team members are aligned.
However, since ventures must focus the majority of their time and efforts on executing opportunities, there is a significant risk for them to spend too much time in meetings strategizing. This article provides some tips to keep meetings effective.
While researching this topic, one of the first ideas we came across was the following: "Meetings at which all participants stay on their feet are a third shorter than sit-down conferences -- and the decisions made in them are just as sound."
Reading this immediately told us that there is no "one-size-fits-all" strategy for effective meetings, since we have been in extremely effective meetings that have lasted two hours. If everyone had been standing, those meetings would have collapsed (literally and figuratively) within the first hour.
So, choosing which effective meeting tips to employ depends upon the challenges that your organization faces.

For example, do your meetings go off on tangents? Do you have clashing personalities within meetings that have trouble agreeing on action plans? Etc.
Here are five meeting tips that should help most organizations:
1. Set meeting objectives and an agenda in advance.
2. Don't invite everyone to the meeting; only invite the people who are required to make the key decisions and/or execute on them.
3. Establish a time limit for the meeting. It's probably best to keep meetings to less than two hours (most people get antsy even after two hours of a good movie).
4. When tangential issues come up in the meeting, determine whether they should be explored during the meeting or a new meeting set up to discuss them. If the latter, immediately go back to the main point of the meeting.
5. Make sure no one rambles. If someone is hogging the airspace, particularly if they are not making clear, concise points, do something to stop them.
And perhaps the most important tip is to avoid meeting at all. That is, if the goal of the meeting can be accomplished via an email, memo or report, the most efficient course is not to have the meeting at all