Taming the meeting beast

Step-by-step Instructions for planning effective meetings.

For many of us, our over scheduled days do not allow for time to be wasted at meetings with no goal or purpose. Unfortunately, many people find themselves in this situation all too often.

Marlene Rebori of the University of Nevada at Reno developed a tip sheet on How to Organize and Run Effective meetings. Rebori says before deciding to hold a meeting, we should ask ourselves the following questions:

  1. Why am I scheduling or attending this meeting?
  2. What do I want to accomplish or gain?
  3. What information will be exchanged or decisions made?
  4. Who will be attending that I need to meet with or gain their support?

If your objectives can’t be met through a phone call, email messages or other forms of written communication, then a meeting may be best. However, one should plan carefully to ensure the meeting accomplishes the intended goals. The following is a list of steps that will help ensure the meeting is organized:

  1. Define the purpose of the meeting.
  2. Develop a list of participants that need to attend so the purpose is achieved.
  3. What is the most effective meeting structure to achieve the purpose? Some ideas include: guest speaker, videos, brainstorming session, panel discussion or facilitated small groups.
  4. Selecting a location, day and time that works best for your participants and structure is key.
  5. Be sure to prepare a detailed agenda and distribute it at least three days before the meeting. If others are playing a role in the meeting, be sure to call them and confirm their assignment.
  6. Remember to send meeting confirmation message the day before so people remember to attend. People get busy and can easily forget.

Meetings are most effective when the board chair shows leadership to help the group stick to the agenda. Too often people get sidetracked or side conversations take over the meeting. The chairperson also needs to make sure the meeting starts and ends on time and minutes are taken so the group has a record of decisions made.

Rebori suggests ending the meeting with a review of assignments and deadlines, summarize the decisions that were made and establishing the next meeting date with a list of agenda items.

Groups should not assume a second meeting is needed, particularly if the follow-up work can be done electronically or over the phone.

Michigan State University’s Community Engagement and Leadership Development Team is working to build leadership capacity in communities and organizations. Running effective meetings is key to engaging participants.


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