08 January 2023 |

7 Steps to Better Meetings


A couple of months ago, I was in a meeting with a team discussing a new project. The meeting was scheduled for an hour, but as the discussion dragged on, it became clear that we were going to need more time. We ended up extending the meeting by another hour, and then another, until we decided to call it quits at the end of the day. 

By the time the meeting was over, nothing was accomplished, and the day was wasted.

This experience was a lesson in the importance of effective meetings. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of a discussion, but if you don’t have a clear purpose and desired outcome for the meeting, it can easily turn into wasted time.

We’ve all been in meeting that drag on for far longer than necessary. Sometimes it feels like the only purpose of the meeting is to waste time.

Nobody like these. Let’s make sure that your meetings are effective and efficient.

So, what can you do to make sure that your meetings are effective and efficient? Here are seven steps that you can take to lead meetings that make an impact.

  1. Assign a Meeting Owner for every meeting. 

The meeting owner is responsible for making sure that the meeting happens and that it stays on track. Without a designated owner, it is easy for meetings to get off track and chaotic.

Be sure they understand their goal is to make sure the meeting stays on task, on schedule, and each meeting ends with clearly communicated next steps. As a leader, be their biggest advocate to ensure you are encouraging meeting etiquette aligned with your goals. 

2. Determine the Desired Outcome for every meeting. 

Before the meeting even begins, make sure that you have a clear goal in mind. What do you want to achieve by the end of the meeting? Without a clear purpose, meetings can devolve into “board meetings” where people just hear themselves talk. (These meetings are the worst.)

Setting out written agendas before meetings is ideal and will help your team prepare, but in situations where this isn’t possible be sure your meetings start with a moment to clarify and remind every in attendance why the meeting is taking place.

3. Do as much Asynchronous Preparation as possible.

Much of the work that goes into a meeting can be done asynchronously. For example, status updates and project questions can be written and shared in advance, allowing attendees to read and comment on them before the meeting begins.

Also, make sure your team is empowered to make decisions outside of the meeting. When every meeting becomes a brainstorming session, nothing gets done.

4. Enforce that offline work is completed.

While it’s easy to say that asynchronous preparation should be done, getting everyone to actually do it is not always easy. This is where the Meeting Owner can be especially valuable, as they can enforce the completion of this work.

Remember, the things that get recognized get repeated. Take a moment at the beginning of each meeting to recognize individuals who helped set the meeting up for success.

5. Time-box the synchronous agenda. 

While it’s important to do as much as possible asynchronously, there are some things that must be done synchronously. For example, personal connection is important for building trust and maintaining team cohesion, but it can be difficult to foster this when working remotely. Consider setting aside a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting for casual conversation or asking each attendee to share a highlight from their personal lives.

I know icebreakers are not always popular, but doing them consistently is a great way for a remote team to continue learning about each other and finding common ground.

6. Drive to Actions. 

Once you’ve defined the purpose of the meeting and identified any issues that need to be addressed, it’s important to make sure that action is taken. Assign tasks to specific individuals and a due date. Make sure that progress is tracked in an action tracker.

This is often the difference between a meeting that helps a team execute and a meeting that is nothing more than a distraction.

7. Collect written Feedback on the meeting itself. 

After the meeting, ask attendees for written Feedback on how the meeting went. What worked well? What could have been done better? This will not only help you to improve the effectiveness of future meetings, but it will also show your team that you value their input.

You don’t need to ask for feedback after every meeting, but doing it consistently will help ensure your ship is moving in the right direction. It can be as simple as sending a slack message asking an individual how they think a meeting went.

What did I miss?

What is one step that helps you run better meeting?