running an effective meeting

15 tips for running an effective meeting

July 6, 2023
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We've all been there: Sitting in a meeting that seems to drag on forever with no clear agenda or outcome. It's frustrating for everyone involved and ultimately unproductive.

Running a successful meeting is an essential skill to learn, as it can save time, improve collaboration, and lead to better decision-making within your organization.

So keep reading to explore practical tips and strategies that will help you run effective meetings. From setting clear objectives to managing time efficiently, these actionable insights will transform your meetings into productive sessions that drive results.

15 tips for running an effective meeting

Here are 15 tips to help you avoid unproductive meetings and facilitate more effective group conversations:

1. Define a clear meeting agenda

Creating a meeting agenda is the first step to running an effective meeting. Your meeting agenda should include a clear purpose, a list of topics to discuss, and any materials that need to be reviewed ahead of time. It should also include the estimated duration of the meeting and the names of everyone who is expected to attend. Sharing the agenda in advance will help ensure that everyone comes prepared and ready to participate.

2. Invite only relevant people

It's important to ensure that everyone who is invited to a meeting is actually necessary for the discussion. Inviting too many people can lead to a lack of focus and dilute the overall message of the meeting. Additionally, having too many people present can inhibit open dialogue and make it difficult to reach a consensus. So, carefully consider who should be invited and make sure that each person plays an important role in the conversation.

3. Arrive on time

Arriving on time is an important part of running an effective meeting. If you show up late, it can set a negative tone for the rest of the meeting. Tardiness can also make other attendees feel disrespected and cause them to disengage from the discussion. 

4. Make time for human connection

Before officially starting your meeting, encourage a few minutes of small talk and human connection, which can have a significant impact on the overall atmosphere and productivity. This brief, informal interaction allows participants to feel more at ease, build rapport, and establish trust among team members. It also helps to set the tone for open communication and collaboration throughout the meeting. By dedicating a few moments to connecting on a personal level, you can foster a positive environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, ultimately leading to more effective meetings.

5. Start with the end in mind

After a little small talk to set the tone, start your meeting with the end in mind. Knowing the desired outcome of a meeting makes it easier to stay on task and actually accomplish what you're hoping to. So begin every meeting by sharing what you hope to achieve by the end—whether that’s a solution, action plan, mutual understanding, or something else. It’ll help you avoid distractions, project more confidence, and create a clear purpose for everyone involved.

6. Assign a notetaker

Having someone responsible for taking notes during the meeting ensures that important information is captured and can be easily referenced later. The notetaker should document key points, decisions made, and action items, as well as any deadlines or responsibilities assigned to team members. After the meeting, the notes should be distributed to all participants so everyone has access to a clear record of what was discussed and agreed upon. This practice not only keeps everyone accountable but also maintains momentum in achieving project goals and objectives.

7. Allocate time for each agenda item

To prevent meetings from running too long and ensure that all topics are adequately discussed, allocate a specific amount of time for each agenda item. When creating the agenda, estimate how much time each topic will require and include it next to the item on the list. This practice helps maintain focus and encourages participants to be concise in their contributions. During the meeting, assign someone to monitor the time and give gentle reminders when the allotted time for a topic is almost up. If necessary, extend the discussion by a few minutes or table it for a follow-up meeting if more deliberation is needed. By keeping an eye on time allocations, you can ensure that your meetings stay on track and cover all essential points without unnecessary delays.

8. Ask more questions

As the meeting facilitator, having “all the answers” might seem impressive. But there’s actually more value in being curious and encouraging participation. So don’t be afraid to ask the group specific, open-ended questions. Be careful to avoid leading or closed questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Instead, encourage deeper discussion by asking questions that start with "how," "why," or "what." Doing so helps you fill your own knowledge gaps, fosters creative thinking among participants, and uncovers valuable insights that can drive the meeting forward. It also signals genuine interest, care, and awareness to whomever you’re talking to, which can leave a lasting mark.

9. Ask only one question at a Ttime

On your quest to start asking more questions, make sure you only ask one question at a time. As a bad example, let’s say you ask someone, "Why did you start doing this, and what do you hope to achieve?" This double-barreled question might confuse the respondent and lead them to answer only one part or the other. To ensure you collect all the information you need, keep it simple. Stick to just one question at a time, and only follow up with your second question after you've given the other person plenty of time to respond to the first.

10. Intentionally use pauses

Both what you say and what you do not say affect how your messages are received. And when used correctly, pauses can make a big impact. So, let yourself pause while speaking to emphasize key points, replace filler or hesitation words, and give listeners time to process what you say. Pausing is also a great way to encourage group discussion since participants will feel motivated to fill your silence.

11. Use visual aids

Using visual aids can help make your meetings more engaging and effective. Visuals such as graphs, diagrams, and infographics can help illustrate complex ideas and make them easier to understand. They also help to keep participants focused on the discussion and can help generate ideas or solutions. Additionally, visuals can be used to track progress or brainstorm solutions in real time, allowing for more creative and productive collaboration. 

12. Handle distractions

During a meeting, it's crucial to address tangents quickly to maintain focus and stay on track. When discussions veer off course, gently remind participants of the agenda and objectives. You can offer to discuss unrelated matters in a separate conversation or set aside time at the end of the meeting for such issues. By nipping tangents in the bud, you'll ensure that your meetings remain productive and efficient while still acknowledging any concerns or ideas that arise outside of the primary objectives.

13. Acknowledge contributions

Acknowledging contributions is an important part of facilitating a successful meeting. Doing so helps foster an environment of trust and mutual respect, leading to better collaboration and more open dialogue. Additionally, acknowledging contributions shows participants that their ideas are valued and encourages them to be more engaged in the conversation. It's also a great way to ensure that everyone is heard and that their opinions are taken into account when making decisions. So don’t forget to thank participants for their ideas and give credit where credit is due!

14. Recap takeaways and next steps

End every meeting by recapping what was discussed and any next steps. It's important to reiterate the decisions that were made and assign any necessary follow-up tasks. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page and can take action accordingly. 

15. Evaluate effectiveness

Finally, to ensure that your meetings are as effective as possible, it's important to evaluate their effectiveness on a regular basis. Consider asking yourself questions such as: Did the meeting achieve its purpose? Was the agenda followed? Did everyone have an opportunity to contribute? What could have been done differently? Taking the time to reflect on these and other questions can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your meeting process and make improvements going forward. With some practice and self-reflection, you can ensure that each meeting you facilitate is productive and successful.

Watch and learn how to become a better meeting facilitator

While facilitating a meeting isn't exactly the same as public speaking, it does require a certain level of confidence and solid communication skills. The more you practice putting these 15 tips into action, the better you'll become at running effective meetings that drive results and foster collaboration.

And if you're really looking to improve, you might consider recording a video of one of the next meetings you facilitate to identify specific improvement opportunities. When you record yourself and watch it back, you may notice that you do or say things you didn’t even realize, like speak too quickly, make awkward hand gestures, or rely on filler words such as “um” or “like.” 

The first step toward improving your meeting facilitation skills is actually knowing and understanding specifically what you need to improve, so this can be a really useful exercise.

Start leading more effective meetings today

Meetings are a necessary part of work for many people. If you want to transform your meetings into productive sessions that drive results and foster collaboration within your organization, try implementing these tips one by one. And don't be afraid to experiment with different techniques until you find what works best for your team.

You can also fast-track your development of writing, speaking, and overall communication skills by downloading the award-winning Elevate brain training app on iOS or Android. It features more than 40 games designed to improve vocabulary, focus, memory skills, and more—all core skills that can make you a better meeting facilitator. Other sites such as LinkedIn and HRShelf also provide a variety of courses and resources to help you become a more effective leader.

Over time, you'll develop a unique approach that makes your meetings productive, engaging, and enjoyable for all participants, turning "I can't believe this meeting is still going on" into “Wow, is it over already?"


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