The One Thing That Will Make or Break Your Next Meeting


A lot of ink has been spilled about meetings – the bane of many office-dwellers’ existence. We have seen advice on how to run better meetings, how to hold fewer meetings, and how to make meetings as short as possible.

Meetings are often considered a necessary evil, one we all tolerate because somewhere deep down, we know that without meetings, our business could not function.

The truth is, there are good meetings and there are bad. And only a few things separate the good from the bad. So it is very easy to take good intentions and turn them into a bad meeting.

But there is one thing that is guaranteed to make or break any meeting.

Before we get to what that is, let me paint a picture for you…

Imagine your company is preparing to launch a new product this fall. Loads of time and money has been sunk into planning and developing this product, which everyone at the organization is fairly certain will be a big seller. And now the marketing team is planning the launch – how to get this product seen by the right audience.

Sounds like a good time for a meeting with the marketing decision makers, perhaps even someone from product and someone from sales to talk about the details of the product and how you plan to get as many out the door in the first month as possible.

So you organize a meeting. You invite all the right people. You send out a clear agenda. Everyone gets a chance to speak and the best ideas rise to the top.

The meeting ends, everyone feels good. This was no waste of time. It was a great conversation, enlightening even.

But a week goes by, and then another, and you find that you need to meet again. Or you need to chase down the team to figure out what happened to all that positive momentum.

The problem is, you didn’t clearly define the next steps and hold someone accountable.

Action Items

Every meeting needs to end with a review of the action items decided on during the meeting. Everyone at the meeting should know what those action items are, and who is responsible for completing them, and by when.

Ideally, someone’s job will be to write down these next steps and send them around to all the attendees. This will ensure there is no confusion, that everyone is on the same page. That way, you will know who is doing what, and when you can expect to see progress.

Without action items, the meeting is a waste of everyone’s time.

How to Get the Most Out of Meetings (Part 3)

Meetings are a part of running a business. Instead of complaining about the huge time suck that meetings have a tendency to be, we can fix them. Meetings, when run properly, benefit a company and the individuals involved. This is part three of the three part series on “Getting the Most Out of Meetings”.

Yesterday we discussed what should be covered at meetings.

Today’s topic is: How Should the Meeting Be Conducted

As yesterday’s post suggested, everyone coming to the meeting should receive a copy of the agenda and the meeting’s purpose ahead of time. Meetings should get a specific start time, with everyone involved expected to show up on time and be ready. Too much time is wasted in meetings just waiting for everyone to get ready to begin.

The meeting should have a leader, someone to facilitate getting through the agenda. He or she does not need to be in charge of the department or the specific project, but should be familiar with the goals and the agenda so that the meeting moves in the right direction.

When the meeting starts, briefly review the purpose and get going. Don’t waste time on a long recap of why you’re all here.

Move from topic to topic, down the agenda, never straying too far off. Let each person have his or her say, but don’t let anyone ramble or take up too much time. No topic should be discussed for more than 5 minutes. Keep a quick pace and people will stay interested.

If a topic requires it, create an action step with someone responsible for it. This leads towards a goal and makes sure someone takes ownership of the task.

At the end of the meeting, briefly review any decisions that were made and any action steps that were assigned. Plan the next meeting, ask if there are any questions, and adjourn.

The best meetings are 30 minutes or less. For staff meetings or general update sessions, even shorter is preferred.

Did you like this 3-part series on meetings? Let me know what you think in the comments below.