Meetings can be effective platforms for sharing results, collaborating to improve performance and generating new ideas. But like an orchestra, a meeting is only as good as the “conductor.” A poorly conducted meeting can just as easily demoralize, de-motivate, and create disrespect and resentment among attendees.

Are people inspired and motivated by your meetings? Do they hear 100 percent of your message and then communicate it effectively to the rest of the organization?

Here are some time-proven strategies to make your meetings more effective:

  1. Distribute an agenda. Provide a meeting agenda two or three days in advance. Some attendees won’t bother to review it ahead of time. Not reviewing the agenda may be their way of telling you they consider your meetings a waste of time. Make the attendee accountable.
  2. Send support documents. Include this information in advance with the agenda. These documents may be reports or updates. Provide instructions on what recipients should do with the information before the meeting, especially when preparation is necessary or additional information is required. Most people do not like being put on the spot when the documents are reviewed during the meeting.
  3. Meet in the morning. Afternoon meetings require presenters to fight attendee’s “food coma” in addition to other distractions such as a preoccupation with what’s on their desks and stress anticipating the additional work you’re about to give them.
  4. Nothing new. Do not distribute new reports at meetings. Stick to what’s on the agenda.
  5. Hold “Meetings That Matter”™
    • Start on time; end on time. Starting late can become habit forming. Ending late will provoke resentment forming.
    • Cut the length. Trim two-hour meetings to 75 minutes, one-hour meetings to 45 minutes, and 30-minute meetings to 20 minutes. You’ll accomplish as much and attendees will appreciate getting back more of their work day.
    • Cellphones off. At this point in our electronic advancement, do we really need to ask people to turn off their devices?
    • Do not jump right into the agenda. People typically need a few minutes to get extraneous thoughts off their minds, clear space, and get on the same page. A five-minute general conversation, check-in, or just asking attendees to greet each other usually suffices. You could even ask people to bullet-point on paper what’s currently on their minds. Doing so is proven to help the brain absorb new information, making it easier to replace the thoughts that were just written down.
    • Review and present. Review the agenda aloud and state a specific outcome for the meeting. If you can’t articulate a purpose for the meeting, don’t have it.
    • Note action items. As the meeting concludes, assign tasks and responsibilities. There should be no more than three action items per meeting. Each must include a “Who” and a “When” plus any “milestones” for follow-up.
    • Recap. Restate what’s been discussed and agreed to, including the “Who” and “When” of any action items.
    • Get out the calendar. Before dismissing attendees, schedule your next meeting.
    • Follow-up. It’s important to check in immediately with individuals responsible for actions items. The best way to follow up is in-person; second best is by phone. Email is not an effective follow-up.

Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He guides organizations through cultural shifts, getting people aligned to strategic outcomes. Reach Stuart via email: