How to run meetings effectively

Run meetings effectively

“Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings, the better.”  Peter Drucker

One can’t agree more!

Meetings have become such a fundamental need for any organization to bring people together to solve the problems. The question is- do they solve the problems or create other problems?

The ‘trend’ of having meetings has increased but their significance has drastically decreased. They solve less problems and create more.  While an ineffective meeting does nothing more than adding up to an organization’s personnel expenses, it also eats up the productive time of the employees. An ineffective meeting creates ambiguity amongst staff members, gives rise to unnecessary talks, waste organizational resources, lowers the morale and elevates the redundancy in employee behavior. And, that’s just the beginning.

When the meeting objectives are poorly defined or there are more arguments than debates then the meeting clearly heads towards purposelessness. This becomes evident in the behavior of team members. Most of them are detesting to sit in a conference room, others are busy doodling something in a notepad. This way  every minute is spent in confusion, everyone comes half-prepared and no presentation slide makes sense, the meeting ends up with an announcement of yet another meeting!

According to, more than $37 billion are lost annually by small companies in unproductive meetings.

Now as alarming as it sounds, here are some effective ways that can help an organization to get the maximum output from a meeting. Here are the WHOs, HOWs and WHATs of running a meeting which will make your meetings do exactly what they’re supposed to do- be productive, solve issues, give birth to new ideas and put a break on another meeting!

WHOs(About the people in the meeting).
  1. Have a very small list of attendees.

The ideal number is supposed to be 8. Beyond that, it isn’t a meeting anymore. You may call it a ‘Public Gathering’!

Humor aside, meetings are supposed to be really productive. Hence, to maximize effectiveness, only the stakeholders and decision makers in context of the decided agenda of the meeting should be called up.

To add up, here’s an 8-18-1800 rule to be followed:

  • To solve a problem or make a decision call 8 people .
  • For brainstorming or to give updates, you may go as high as 18 people.
  • If you’re organizing a trooping rally, call in 1800 people.
  1. Have a pre-decided distribution of roles.

To start with, make sure to have a mediator. Often in the desire to leave an impact on the meeting, people end up beating around the bush or deviate from the ‘to-be-discussed’ topic. In such moments, it is the mediator’s duty to nudge the speaker and remind him/her of the decided topic. Also, the mediator may play the role of a timekeeper.

A Minute-Keeper should also be a part of the meeting. This very person is supposed to just jot down the minutes of the meeting to ensure no piece of content is missed out in the final conclusion. These minutes should be later distributed to all the attendees for them to revise upon. Rest, the meeting should have a clear sequence of presenters in coherence with the decided topic.

HOWs (About the content of the meeting)
  1. Have a pre-decided exhaustive list of agenda/agendas.

Before meeting up, make sure to have a list of topics to be discussed, distributed in advance to all the attendees of the meeting. The real agenda of calling for a meeting is very important.

Are you calling for a meeting to –

  • Solve a problem that requires collective efforts?
  • Make a big plan of some upcoming event?
  • Generate better ideas about a new product?
  • Get the reports of the work from various department heads?

When you have the objective ready it will

  • Helps people to do their homework in prior so that no time is wasted in explaining to people what’s going on.
  • Allows people to be aware of whether they are supposed to bring up any necessary report to the meeting.
  • Everyone understands the exact context of the meeting and hence can contribute accordingly.
  • Help attendees decide whether to take up some issues in this meeting or wait for the next one. This way, the meeting’s agenda remains concentrated to the core pre-decided topic.
  1. Maintain positivity in the meeting.

No meeting should end up in rumbles and fights. Arguments are only necessary to scrutinize things further. And, to ensure that the meeting doesn’t end up into a debating event, make sure no-one is coming up with the unrelated issues and problems in the meeting. The meeting is held to discuss solutions and not linger upon the problem (unless of very severe nature, in that case it should be taken up personally). This maintains the positivity in the meeting and disciplines the attendees to have a ‘problem-solving’ attitude. A positive and problem-solving attitude in the meetings is important because, according to Dr.Daniel Goldman (a leading researcher in Social & Emotional Intelligence), 20-30% of employee performance is dependent on the mood.

WHATs (About conducting the meeting itself)
  1. Say no to electronics.

This may sound absurd in the first place but can actually make or break a meeting.  Electronics here would include the prohibition of phones, tablets and laptops. Yes, you may use a PowerPoint projector but only for the discussion of the data/reports. Some may say, “how would you take notes?”.The answer to this is- a pen and a paper. The point being, these electronic devices add more distraction to the attendees in the form of beeping emails, intruding social media or counter-productive games! Hence, when everyone is sitting there without them, there is nowhere else to focus, other than the discussion.

  • This would make attendees more involved and contribute to the discussion.
  • There would be a higher scope of involvement since there is no scope of avoiding the discussion by digging into one’s phone.
  1. End the meeting with a CTA- Call to Action.

Every meeting starts with an agenda or a purpose. Once the meeting reaches a conclusion, everyone should be aware of the actions to be taken post the meeting. Every attendee should be aware of his/her responsibility in regards to the implementation of whatever has been concluded in the meeting. To make everyone clear of how the meeting was concluded, circulate a memo amongst the attendees to ensure everyone is clear of his/her tasks to be accomplished thereon.

One last thing would be- NEVER EVER arrange for a follow-up meeting.

A follow-up meeting simply means the repetition of the same points of discussion and hence signifies the usage of same resources for similar outputs, thus making the whole thing a waste. If the meeting lasts more than half an hour, have a small break for the attendees to freshen up, and then continue.

There were meetings and there would be meetings but now with the tips as mentioned above, you know how to run a meeting effectively and end it on a positive note.