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close this bookHundred Tips for a Better Management (Aga Khan Foundation, 1993, 70 p.)
close this folderRunning effective meetings
View the document(introduction...)
View the document9. Before you call a meeting, decide if you should have one at all10
View the document10. If you must have a meeting, plan how to get the most out of it11
View the document11. Guide your team in having more effective discussions12
View the document12. Start on time; End on time13
View the document13. How to chair a meeting14
View the document14. Don't sit on the results of a good meeting; follow up with a plan of action15
View the document15. Maximise what you can get out of a ''brainstorming'' session16


In a good meeting there is momentum that comes from the spontaneous exchange of fresh ideas and produces extraordinary results. Harold Geneen, CEO, IT&T

9. Before you call a meeting, decide if you should have one at all10

Groups are not good for organising large amounts of data, for synthesising lots of ideas, or for writing reports.

Individuals organise and write reports more efficiently than groups do.

Groups are good for brainstorming, exchanging opinions and information, identifying problems, discussing issues, and making final decisions.

FIRST, decide whether or not a meeting is appropriate. The worst reason to have one is because it is scheduled.

A meeting is appropriate when:

  • You want an issue clarified
  • You have concerns you want to share with your group as a whole
  • You want information from your group
  • You want to involve your group in solving a problem or making a decision
  • Your group wants a meeting

A meeting is not appropriate when:

  • The subject is trivial
  • You can communicate better by telephone
  • You have to deal with personnel issues, such as hiring, firing, and negotiating salaries
  • The subject matter is so confidential that it can't be shared with some members of the group
  • There is inadequate data or poor preparation
  • You have already made the decisions on the proposed topic of the meeting

10. If you must have a meeting, plan how to get the most out of it11

Meetings are commonly held to introduce new ideas and activities, to review the progress of existing ones, to discuss alternatives for solving a problem, to make decisions, or to do any number of things. But, people the world over complain about meetings, judging them a waste of time and effort. If you know how to run a meeting effectively, that is, if you can conduct it in a way that makes efficient use of time and achieves the purpose for which it was planned, your meetings need never be a complete waste of time.

The following steps can help you to run a more effective meeting:

  • Define the purpose: Provide people with a clear understanding of what you want from the meeting and why you want this particular group of people involved.

  • Prepare an agenda: Prepare an agenda of the topics to be covered, the names of speakers, the amount of time to be spent on each topic, and any procedures, e.g., brainstorming, group exercises, that will be used.

  • Clarify roles: Clarifying roles of the participants can be useful if people are meeting together for the first time or if the group is large and needs to be structured. The team leader: usually but not always the supervisor, calls the meeting, sets the agenda, and initiates discussion. A facilitator keeps the meeting on track, moderates any conflicts, and monitors time. A recorder or scribe keeps a written record of what happened in the meeting. Additional roles such as advisors or observers could be assigned if necessary.

  • Set ground rules: Make explicit the rules on how the meeting will be conducted. Some examples include: to respect one another and not interrupt while someone is speaking, to make decision by consensus, etc.

11. Guide your team in having more effective discussions12

Effective discussions lead to effective meetings. Knowing how to guide a discussion and get the most out of participants is equally important to planning and structuring a meeting.

The following techniques can help you to facilitate discussions and thus improve the effectiveness of your meetings:

  • Ask for clarification when necessary. If a point or a term is not understood, try to rephrase or illustrate it so that it becomes clear.

  • Act as a facilitator to regulate more aggressive members, encourage the participation of quieter ones, avoid unnecessary conflicts. Let everyone feel that their opinions are valued.

  • Listen to all ideas. Don't interpret or draw conclusions about what is being said until it's been said.

  • Try to avoid lengthy, irrelevant discussions.

  • Test for consensus by asking the group if there is agreement with a decision or point. Do not assume consensus has been reached.

  • End the meeting when no additional discussion is necessary.

  • Check to see whether your objectives were met.

12. Start on time; End on time13

One of the keys to running an effective meeting is to stay on time. But often the main problem is that staff simply don't arrive on time. Meetings that fail to start on time probably, to the exasperation of most staff, do not end on time.

So, to get your people there on time, try these hints:

  • Schedule meetings to begin at odd times. For example, if you start a meeting at a quarter past the hour, it may get more attention.

  • Start on time regardless of who is missing.

  • Close the door when a meeting begins.

  • Discuss, first, those items of particular interest to latecomers.

  • Look to other group member to apply pressure to chronic latecomers.

  • Speak privately to offenders.

13. How to chair a meeting14

If a meeting isn't run well, it's usually the fault of the chair. If you chair a meeting, you have several jobs:

  • Start the meeting. Don't wait for someone else to start it.

  • Set (or summarise) the purpose, agenda and schedule. Check to make sure everyone agrees, make amendments as appropriate.

  • Gently, but firmly, guide the discussion. Be fair and objective.

  • Eliminate digressions and gently cut short dialogues that exclude the majority of the participants.

  • Recognise people who want to speak and take them in turn; don't tolerate people speaking out of turn.

  • Watch the clock, and make sure that everyone is aware of the timeremind them every 10-15 minutes.

  • Draw conclusions at the end of each agenda item and watch to make sure that people agree with your conclusions. Amend them if they do not.

  • Resolve conflict; if a serious dispute arises, table the point and work it out after the meeting.

  • End the meeting; thank the participants; announce the follow-up plans.

14. Don't sit on the results of a good meeting; follow up with a plan of action15

Great enthusiasm and creativity can come out of a good meeting. But often ideas and promised actions are neglected or delayed soon after the meeting has ended. Some ways to capitalise on the momentum generated by a productive meeting include:

  • End meetings with a summary of agreed-upon actions.
  • Establish a norm to "do it the next day."
  • Send out reminders to people a few days later.
  • When action is not forthcoming, call people to ask if you can help in some way.
  • At your next meeting, provide a status report of agreed-upon actions from the previous meeting.

15. Maximise what you can get out of a ''brainstorming'' session16

Some meetings are held for the purposes of generating fresh ideas to address an issue or identifying new ways to resolve a problem. These brainstorming sessions can be productive and meaningful if they are conducted in a way that maximises the interaction of people and the exchange of ideas. Some tips for managing this type of meeting:

  • Limit group size to a controllable number.

  • Use seating that allows for more face-to-face interaction. Round tables are better than long ones.

  • Encourage everyone to think of ways to draw from or "hitchhike" on others' ideas.

  • Don't just look for a right answer. By generating as many ideas as possible, a right one may emerge.

  • Allow people to blurt out their ideas.

  • Record the ideas on a flip chart.

  • Make sure people plan to stay as long as necessary or until they run out of ideas.