We all complain about meetings which are a waste of our time and the truth of the matter is that many are exactly that because the person holding the meeting often doesn’t plan ahead enough, or doesn’t know how to steer the meeting on to keep people interested.

We’ve also seen the “corridor” meeting that takes place afterwards where it seems the real decisions are taken, or the agreed decisions are overturned, and then back to the formal meeting soon after that to start all over again…what a waste of time!

All successful meetings depend upon a number of interdependent factors and if you approach each one methodically you’ll find that your meetings are the ones that get action. And you get the credit.

If you find that your meetings don’t seem to get the desired results, or you want to show other people how it should be done so they can change their format, too, here are some basic pointers:


Planning is crucial if you want to have successful and impact full meetings that your colleagues and business associates will buy into. There are four areas to co sider when planning:

  • Preparation
  • Information
  • Structure and control
  • Records and action

Some other questions to ask yourself before you invite anyone to a meeting are:

  • What is the purpose of the meeting, and what is it intended to achieve?
  • What happens if you don’t hold the meeting – will it be rescheduled, or will you follow up with a list of actions instead?
  • Who needs to attend and why? Can the meeting go ahead if anyone is unable to attend, or can you go ahead with the other attendees?
  • Is there a more effective way of communicating besides having the meeting? Would a simple group email get the desired outcome, and quicker?


  • Prepare and circulate an agenda in advance so that everyone can prepare in advance if the meeting.
  • Invite agenda items before the meeting – unless you are doing a presentation or giving a special announcement, you should probably ask other attendees if they would like to add any items to the meeting’s agenda.
  • Arrange the agenda logically – try not to jump from one idea to the next when there are linked topics, or prerequisites.
  • Arrange the timings and set limits – time is money, and if you get yourself a bad reputation for always running over in your meetings, you may find yourself struggling to get attendance. Keep things brief and to the point, and you’re likely to get buy in.
  • Clarify objectives for each item and agree on actions and deadlines at the meeting so that any confusion can be addressed there and them.


  • Tell those involved what’s expected of them – if you need information, data or research brought to the meeting, give as much notice as possible.
  • Tell everyone time, date location etc of the meeting.
  • Circulate any required pre-reading or information beforehand, and in advance if the meeting to give everyone enough time to read it.

Structure and control

  • Discuss each item in turn – don’t let other steer the meeting off topic.
  • Seek contributions but keep people to the point.
  • Avoid going over old ground – a brief background to refresh and update everyone is fine, but your meeting won’t start until your time is up if you keep going over old achievements before the meeting starts.
  • Confirm any conclusions – before the end of the meeting, give a brief rundown on what has been agreed and discussed to confirm that everyone is in agreement.
  • Make actions and who does what and by when very clear, so that there is no comeback or confusion.

Records and action

  • Record discussions, actions and responsibilities so that you have a point of reference if something is forgotten, and so you can chase up on things that haven’t been done.
  • Produce clear simple minutes immediately and circulate it to all meeting attendees some that the work stays fresh in their mind.

There are a number of points to learn about the effective handling of meetings:

  • Invite the right people
  • Set an agenda that’s do-able
  • Control timings and people
  • Encourage members to listen to each other
  • Note actions
  • Review and record

So if you want to avoid the “let’s all turn up and see what happens” approach it just means that you need to take the time to think through to what you really want and need to achieve, and then get on with it. People will thank you for not wasting their, and you won’t waste your time, either.

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