How to hold effective meetings

Checklist

  1. 1 Identify the meeting objectives, for example, to discuss issues and make decisions, to brainstorm ideas or to motivate the team.
  2. 2 Decide who needs be present and why.
  3. 3 Arrange a date, time and place; make any administrative arrangements including organising the venue, refreshments and, if necessary, a secretary for the meeting.
  4. 4 Set the agenda, with a clear objective for each item; note who will lead the discussion of each item.
  5. 5 Prepare a timetable, allocating time for each item; consider separate, shorter meetings if there is too much to cover in a reasonable time.
  6. 6 Circulate the agenda and any supporting papers as early as possible.
  7. 7 Prepare if necessary, discuss sensitive issues or agree your approach with key participants before the meeting.
  8. 8 Start the meeting on time, welcome participants and make introductions; explain the timetable and administrative arrangements (eg breaks).
  9. 9 Introduce each agenda item in turn in a balanced, positive fashion.
  10. 10 Control the discussion; encourage quiet participants, and restrain attempts to dominate the discussion or to raise unrelated topics.
  11. 11 Give your own views after other participants; summarise the discussion.
  12. 12 If appropriate, agree a decision; clarify responsibilities and deadlines for any action points.
  13. 13 Stick to the timetable; be prepared to hold over topics for further discussion at a later date if necessary.
  14. 14 Address any non-agenda items which have arisen; discuss them at the end of the meeting if appropriate, or agree to postpone them.
  15. 15 Reiterate the main points and thank participants before ending the meeting.
  16. 16 Circulate minutes of the discussions and action points agreed to all participants and others affected; monitor subsequent progress.

Cardinal rules

Do:

  • circulate the agenda well in advance
  • prepare thoroughly
  • set and stick to the timetable
  • handle each item separately
  • control discussion
  • agree detailed action points when appropriate
  • circulate minutes soon afterwards

Don't:

  • spring unwelcome surprises on participants
  • prejudge or dominate discussions
  • allow discussions to be sidetracked
  • plan marathon meetings or allow meetings to drag on