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How to Run Effective Meetings

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There are times when that “Meeting Monday” feeling lasts all week. Meetings can be time consuming and expensive, especially when you factor in salaries for the number of people around the table. Learning how to run meetings effectively is an import skill that is key to leadership development.

Using these 10 best practices, you’ll manage your meetings better, and bring people and ideas together in meaningful ways that meet deadlines and further your goals.

1. Understand your goals. This should be established before you set the agenda. Do you want participants to come to a decision? To generate ideas? Be clear about your overall goals before you set the agenda. Make sure the agenda items include only the most important and urgent items that need to be addressed.

2. Limit the agenda to 3-5 actionable items that match the mission or a goal shared by all members around the table. If the agenda item only matters to a subset of the group, save that conversation for a separate, specific meeting.

3. Share your objective-based agenda at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting to allow people to add necessary items, or think about how items fall within their frame of interests/values. Giving members advanced-notice enables more introverted people to share their ideas in ways that they may better be heard by the group. This will also prevent the same voices from dominating the conversation.

4. Check in with people at the start of the meeting. Use an open question to get to know people better and build trust. To build accountability and continuity over time, the question could relate to the goals established in the previous meeting. For regularly scheduled meetings, rotate the leader of the opening question to take attendees’ engagement to the next level.

5. Manage People and Time. If there are new faces at the table or if anyone is calling in via teleconference, be sure that everyone is familiar with the names and roles of people in the meeting. If certain voices are chiming in louder than others, be sure to ask for other opinions.

6. Set a time limit and focus on specific items that are urgent and important. Other “conversation” items can be addressed via email, phone, shared online documents, or in passing at the coffee machine. Effective meetings are as short as possible, while still engaging the attendants in meaningful ways and establishing clear, action-based outcomes.

7. Document the meeting clearly and effectively. Assign someone to take notes and email to the group or post to a shared content site so members can reflect back on the notes. This will also help you to track goals and understand how well you are achieving them over time.

8. Use action words and assign people with goals and deadlines. After an effective meeting people leave the room with a clear idea of their next steps and how their actions will support the overall project. These “next steps” should be noted in the meeting minutes in a clear and obvious way, with deadlines and responsibility delegated to specific people and/or particular teams.

9. Reflect actions/tasks back to overarching goals. Set action items that relate each person’s work to a goal. Even the most menial seeming tasks are critical to how well a project comes together.

10. Ask for Feedback. Employees will be more engaged with the work if they feel personally connected to the mission and the process. End the meeting by asking for feedback on two important metrics:

  • “How satisfied are you with what we accomplished during this meeting?” (scale 1-10)
  • “How satisfied are you with the way we accomplished these items?” (scale 1-10)

Follow these steps and you’ll enhance your skills as a leader. Being consistent and following these simple steps will increase the work you will be able to achieve during meetings and improve employee engagement in the process.

University of Vermont Continuing and Distance Education offers a variety of professional development and career advancement programs. Visit