Tips for leading a successful meeting

My appreciation of well-planned meetings started in a seminar course during the fourth year of my undergraduate degree. Our course mark was largely based on one major presentation that involved working with a group of five others in the class.

In preparation for the final presentation, our group held several meetings. At first, these meetings ran on and on, without structure or meaningful outcomes. So, I started to develop lists of items to discuss, assigning tasks and following up with the group after the meetings.

As a result, our group held more efficient meetings, met deadlines and produced a high-quality presentation, which resulted in a high mark.

Although this experience was many years ago, the benefits of being prepared for and structuring meetings have stayed with me into my career. Not only will using a formulaic approach to leading meetings demonstrate your professionalism, but it will allow you to get things done more efficiently and make the most of the time you have with your colleagues.

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Here are a few tips to help you lead effective meetings:

1. Come prepared. 

  • Understand your meeting objective(s). It’s helpful to actually say them or display them on a PowerPoint slide as you kick off your meeting.
  • Develop an agenda, and if possible, share it beforehand so that everyone who’s attending knows what to expect.
  • Although it seems obvious, make sure you’ve invited the right people. For example, if you’re discussing a presentation, it may make sense to have the graphic design specialist in the room when you meet to discuss the content of the presentation, so they can hit the mark when they design the look and feel of the presentation.

2. Be in control.

  • A meeting is successful when you make the most of everyone’s time while they’re together. Assign a time-keeper and note-taker to help keep things on track, cover the agenda and meet your objectives.
  • Depending on who’s in the room, it may not be appropriate to go into the tiny details for a task or project. If the meeting discussion veers off track  encourage participants to discuss things “off-line” in a smaller meeting.
  • Assign tasks and next steps. Determine who has the “R”, or “who is responsible for”, each task. Set realistic timelines for the delivery of action items and next steps.

3. Follow up.

  • Develop a contact report for all attendees, which includes meeting notes and a list of action items for everyone to complete, as discussed at the end of the meeting.
  • Schedule follow-up meetings to check on the status of everyone’s tasks, as required.

What other tips do you have for holding a successful meeting?

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2 thoughts on “Tips for leading a successful meeting

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  1. Great tips! Especially the one about inviting the right people. So many times key players in getting a project out the door (e.g., PR, graphics) get brought in at the last minute and have to be brought up to speed, when just having the right team in the room at the beginning would be so much faster – and generate great ideas too!

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