How to run an effective meeting

Have you ever been in a meeting that goes on too long, doesn’t get the results that were needed, or goes off on a tangent? Most of us have, and it can be very frustrating. Our time at work is valuable, so here’s our guide to running effective meetings.

Women on Boards


Far too many meetings are ineffective, unproductive and even a waste of their attendees’ time. Your colleagues and managers will thank you if you can make sure that every meeting is useful and valuable. Effective meetings strategies are fairly simple, but important – and often overlooked. Here’s our list of efficient meeting tips…

Be clear about your purpose

It’s always helpful if you can make sure that everyone knows what the meeting is about and why they’re there. Give a brief explanation in the invitation to the meeting so that people can decide whether they need to be there and whether to involve others. This approach also helps avoid spending the first few minutes of the meeting debating whether it is even necessary!

Remind everyone at the start of the meeting what it’s about, and state what you want to achieve. This will help you steer the discussion back on course later if needed.

Be punctual to start and finish

Efficient meetings always start on time. So encourage everyone to arrive when they’re due, and confirm how long each person is available at the outset. This helps avoid people rushing off before the meeting is finished – it’s inevitably someone that’s pivotal to decision making.

It’s usually helpful to overestimate the length of a meeting. If you think it should last an hour, book 90 minutes. Most of us are happy to get a little time back when a meeting is shorter than booked, while a meeting that overruns can create undue stress.

Make sure there’s a chair

When meetings become derailed it’s because no-one is leading it. If it’s your meeting, take charge. If not, make sure someone acts as chair. Have a planned agenda and share it with everyone – it will keep them focused.

One of the toughest roles for the chair – but a really important one, is to make sure the meeting stays on track. If someone is starting to take things in an unnecessary direction, or talking too much about something that isn’t relevant to the agenda, you need to step in. You can suggest that the discussion be picked up outside the meeting, or that a separate meeting is booked in to focus on the issue. Or, you can simply refocus everyone on the task in hand.

State the actions

Running effective meetings requires everyone to be clear about what they need to do once the meeting is over. As an action is identified, make sure that someone agrees to pick it up. Note the action and who is performing it.

Summing up

As you reach the end of your meeting, summarise what’s been discussed, the decisions that have been made, the actions proposed and the next steps. If another meeting is needed, agree when to hold it.

Follow up

It’s amazing how often people have different perceptions about what happened in a previous meeting – which is often an excuse for why actions haven’t been completed. To avoid this situation, send a summary of the decisions and actions to all the meeting participants. This can be as formal as a set of minutes or simply just a few bullet points in an email – but it makes a big difference in how efficient the meeting is in terms of the results.

Finally, you should also follow up on the actions, to make sure they’re completed. If not, it may be time for another meeting….

Try out these effective meetings guidelines and see whether they improve your outputs. Once you’re running effective meetings your colleagues and contacts will certainly appreciate it. If your organisation is particularly guilty off lengthy and non-efficient meetings, it may be worth adopting a ‘how to run a meeting’ template, outlining the steps above.

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