How to run effective meetings

Welcome to "How to run effective team meetings", in this module we will look at a number of factors that can affect whether a meeting is successful or not.

Each of the sections explain a specific area that will help you when you are organising meetings. 

When you are ready, click on each section in turn and follow the instructions through each page.

Introduction

Introduction

We've all been to meetings which have droned on and on, don't seem to achieve anything, and leave everyone in the room wondering "why am I here?"

However, meetings don't have to be like that. If a meeting is run properly, it can: save time, increase motivation, productivity, solve problems and create new ideas and initiatives.

In this module, you will learn some strategies to help you run effective and engaging meetings. We will also discuss all the key points that you need to consider when planning a meeting.

By the end of this training, you will be able to:

  • set clearly defined and purposeful objectives 
  • plan and prioritise agendas
  • manage time and keep to schedule
  • keep everyone involved and "on topic"
  • manage outcomes, next - steps and delegated tasks

We shall also discuss what can happen if you don't consider these points.

Meeting objectives

Meeting objectives

Planning your meeting is very important, you need to be clear about what you want to achieve, as this will help you to decide: who needs to attend, what activities will be involved and also what preparation will need to take place beforehand.

If your meeting doesn't have a clearly-defined purpose, you are at risk of wasting precious time while attendees decide what to talk about.

Click on the images below for some key points on how to write meeting objectives:

What does the acronym SMART stand for?

  • Subjective, Manageable, Adaptable, Resourceful, Trustworthy
  • Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Relevant, Timely
  • Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely

What document should support your meeting objectives?

  • The agenda
  • The minutes

Meeting objectives true / false

  • Having clear objectives can help you assess how effective your meeting was

Agenda and meeting preparation

Meeting agenda

So, you've decided that you need to hold a meeting, and you have a clear idea of what you want the outcome of the meeting to be. The next thing you need to do is plan your agenda and decide who needs to attend.

An agenda is an important document, as it is a plan for a meeting which provides a structure and focus. Meetings without firm direction are unlikely to be constructive or effective, there is a greater possibility of participants becoming disengaged and for the meeting to stray from the relevant topics; thereby setting a poor precedent for future meetings and possibly discouraging future attendance.

Click on the images below for some key points on how to plan your agenda:

Which of the following items should always appear on your agenda? (There may be more than one right answer).

  • Date
  • Venue
  • Apologies for absence
  • Details of who is bringing the biscuits
  • Breaks (including timings)
  • Details of who is chairing the meeting
  • Details of any material that attendees need to read before the meeting
  • Attendees
  • Items that are only relevant to a small number of attendees
  • Details of anybody taking part in the meeting

Meeting preparation

There are also other things that you need to think about when preparing for a meeting. We will look at these briefly now:

As mentioned earlier, you need to consider who you are inviting to the meeting, decide what skills, knowledge and attributes will be needed to achieve the objective and then invite people who possess those qualities.

If the aim of the meeting is to inform people of a change of process or new legislation, think about everyone who will be affected by it, and then send them an invitation. If you think that someone won't immediately understand why they are being invited, make sure that you explain how it impacts upon them, otherwise they may decline the invitation, or not pay attention.

As part of your preparation you need to make sure that all attendees are able to fully participate in the meeting. This means that you need to give them plenty of warning if you expect them to:

  • play a specific role in a meeting (i.e. provide an update or a report on a piece of work)
  • provide ideas or solutions 
  • be informed about a subject

You need to make sure that you provide all information and reading material in advance of the meeting, and let people know how you expect them to prepare for the meeting; that way you can make the most out of the meeting time.

Chairing a meeting

Chairing meetings

There are lots of things to consider and prepare when chairing a meeting. Click on each of the images below to find out more about your responsibilities:

Chairing meetings: true / false

  • The minutes of a meeting must record every single detail of the meeting

Chairing meetings: true / false

  • You should record the date, time and venue of the meeting

Chairing meetings: true / false

  • You only need to record the details of the people who attended the meeting

When meetings go wrong

When meetings go wrong

We've considered many factors that can help you run effective meetings, we are now going to look at how they can go wrong, if these principles are not followed...

Dan lead a meeting last week which was unsuccessful. The attendees were disengaged, didn't participate and two of them were so bored that they started playing "Words With Friends" against each other on their phones.

Dan has sent invites to the same group of attendees and three of them have declined to attend.

Dan asked for feedback to help him establish what had gone wrong and was provided with the following comments:

"I didn't understand what we were doing there. There was a lack of direction and we didn't seem to achieve anything! It was a complete waste of my time".

"I don't know why I was invited to the meeting, it had nothing to me. I couldn't contribute anything as I didn't know anything about the subject".

"The meeting was completely chaotic, most of the attendees didn't pay attention, two of them were playing on their phones and others were just having their own conversations. Nobody seemed to be in charge and we didn't really know what we were supposed to do."

Why do you think the meeting was unsuccessful? Type your answer into the space below and then click "Submit" to see how it compares with the model answer.

What suggestions would you make to Dan, to help his next meeting go smoothly? Type your answer into the space below and then click "Submit" to see how it compares with the model answer.

When meetings go wrong

Kate is running her first meeting with her new team, she had allocated an hour to cover everything that they had to discuss. The hour is almost up and they are still talking about the first item on the agenda.

Kate is panicking because there are still some very important subjects to discuss, but she doesn't think they can do them justice in the remaining time; and she is also aware that her team are already losing focus and concentration.

She also knows that many members of the team are working to some tight deadlines and will not want to spend any longer than an hour in the meeting.

What should Kate do? Type your answer into the space below and then click "Submit" to see how it compares with the model answer.

How can Kate avoid similar problems in the future? Type your answer into the space below and then click "Submit" to see how it compares with the model answer

What steps should meeting organisers take to make sure that actions are completed by specific individuals? (There may be more than one right answer).

  • Make sure that they agree to the task within the meeting
  • Record details of the task, the responsible person and the deadline for the task, within the minutes of the meeting
  • Check that the individual understands what is expected of them
  • Give them details of the deadline within the meeting
  • Check on progress prior to the deadline
  • Encourage individuals to come to you with any questions or problems about their task

When meetings go wrong

Scott hates attending team meetings, he never gets a chance to share his ideas and points of view because his colleague, Annie, monopolises every discussion. She talks over other people, interrupts them and regularly and openly discounts Scott's contributions, stating that he is young and inexperienced and therefore, doesn't know anything.

Scott has become so discouraged by Annie's behaviour that he has made the decision to no longer make any effort in team meetings. He now, just like the rest of his colleagues, sits quietly, waiting for the meeting to end; letting Annie dominate.

Scott's team leader, Melanie, has noticed the change in Scott's demeanor, and asks him why he seems so down in team meetings and why he no longer participates. Scott explains the impact that Annie's behaviour is having upon him, and that he is now reluctant to contribute to meetings because of how he has been treated. He also tells Melanie that there is no point in attempting to participate in meetings because  Annie won't let anybody say anything.

Melanie thanks Scott for his honesty and says that she will deal with the situation.

What should Melanie do? (There may be more than one right answer).

  • Annie's behaviour is actually harassment, as she is targeting Scott because of his age. Melanie has a duty of care for Scott and therefore, needs to speak to HR and also formally challenge Annie's conduct directly.
  • Melanie should just explain to Scott that he shouldn't be so sensitive and shouldn't let Annie get to him
  • Melanie should speak privately to Annie, and explain that her behaviour is having a negative effect on the rest of the team, and that she needs to allow other people to participate in meetings
  • If Annie continues to dominate meetings, Melanie should thank her for her contribution but explain that she needs to hear from other members of the team before making a decision
  • Melanie should stop inviting Annie to meetings
  • Melanie should get the team to gang up on Annie and stop her from participating by giving her a dose of her own medicine
  • Melanie should encourage participation by other members of the team by asking particular questions to specific individuals
  • Melanie should start delegating responsibility for leading the meeting to specific individuals
  • Melanie should encourage Scott, and other team members, to prepare and lead specific items on the agenda
  • Melanie should set ground rules regarding how everyone should behave within meetings

What should you do if someone is late to a meeting, without having given you any warning?

  • Delay the start of the meeting until they arrive
  • Start the meeting without them
  • Recap on everything they have missed
  • Explain that they can catch up on everything that they have missed by reading the minutes

In conclusion

We have considered various factors that can influence whether a meeting is effective or not; and we have also looked at what steps you can take to make sure that problems are avoided. 

Click on the images below to read a summary the key points from this section:

You have now completed this module. We hope you found it useful and that it helps you to run more effective meetings in the future. Click back on the Home icon to return to the main page.