How To Run A Meeting

Short Description

Meeting basics and overview

Target Audience

BOG Chairman
Chapter Advisor
Vice President

Borradaile Challenge or Area of Focus

Chapter Operations


Planning and running effective meetings for business, corporate, sales, managing, mediation, strategic planning and team-building
Here are the rules for running meetings. Meetings are vital for management and communication. Properly run meetings save time, increase motivation, productivity, and solve problems. Meetings create new ideas and initiatives. Meetings achieve buy-in. Meetings prevent 'not invented here' syndrome. Meetings diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot. Meetings are effective because the written word only carries 7% of the true meaning and feeling. Meetings are better than telephone conferences because only 38% of the meaning and feeling is carried in the way that things are said. The other 55% of the meaning and feeling is carried in facial expression and non-verbal signals. That's why meetings are so useful. (Statistics from research by Dr Albert Mehrabian)

Hold meetings, even if it's difficult to justify the time. Plan, run and follow up meetings properly, and they will repay the cost many times over. Hold meetings to manage teams and situations, and achieve your objectives quicker, easier, at less cost. Hold effective meetings to make people happier and more productive. Brainstorming meetings are immensely powerful for team-building, creativity, decision-making and problem-solving.

But do it properly. Badly run meetings waste time, money, resources, and are worse than having no meetings at all. So learn these simple rules and use them.

Meetings - Basic Rules

  1. Plan - use the agenda as a planning tool (see 'POSTAD TV' acronym below)
  2. Circulate agenda in advance
  3. Run the meeting - keep control, agree outcomes, actions and responsibilities, take notes
  4. Write and circulate notes
  5. Follow up agreed actions and responsibilities.

Meeting purposes include:

  • Giving information
  • Training
  • Discussion (leading to an objective)
  • Generating ideas
  • Planning
  • Workshops
  • Consulting and getting feedback
  • Finding solutions/solving problems
  • Crisis management
  • Performance reporting/assessment
  • Setting targets and objectives
  • Setting tasks and delegating
  • Making decisions
  • Conveying /clarifying policy issues
  • Team building
  • Motivating
  • Special subjects - guest speakers


The acronym POSTAD TV (Priorities, Outcomes, Sequence, Timings, Agenda, Date, Time, Venue) shows you how to plan effective meetings, and particularly how to construct the meeting agenda, and then notify the meeting delegates:

Meeting Priorities

What is the meeting's purpose? Always have one; otherwise don't have a meeting. Decide the issues for inclusion in the meeting and their relative priority: importance and urgency.
You can avoid the pressure for 'Any Other Business' at the end of the meeting if you circulate a draft agenda in advance of the meeting, and ask for any other items for consideration. ('Any Other Business' often creates a free-for-all session that wastes time, and gives rise to new tricky expectations, which if not managed properly then closes the meeting on a negative note.)

Meeting Outcomes

Decide what outcome (i.e. what is the purpose) you seek for each issue, and put this on the agenda alongside the item heading. This is important as people need to know what is expected of them, and each item will be more productive with a clear aim at the outset. Typical outcomes are:

  • Decision
  • Discussion
  • Information
  • Planning (e.g. workshop session)
  • Generating ideas
  • Getting feedback
  • Finding solutions
  • Agreeing (targets, budgets, aims, etc)
  • Policy statement
  • Team-building/motivation
  • Guest speaker - information, initiatives, etc

Meeting Date

Ensure the date you choose causes minimum disruption for all concerned. It's increasingly difficult to gather people for meetings, so take care when finding the best date - it's a very important part of the process. Don't expect it to be easy, particularly if quite senior people are involved. For meetings that repeat on a regular basis the easiest way to set dates is to agree them in advance at the first meeting when everyone can commit there and then to their schedules. Try to schedule a semesters worth of meetings if possible, then you can circulate and publish the dates, which helps greatly to ensure people keep to them and that no other priorities encroach. Pre-planning meeting dates is one of the keys to achieving control and well-organized meetings.

Meeting Agenda

Produce the meeting agenda. This is the tool with which you control the meeting. Include all the relevant information and circulate it in advance. If you want to avoid having the ubiquitous and time-wasting 'Any Other Business' on your agenda, circulate the agenda well in advance and ask for additional items to be submitted for consideration.
Formal agendas for board meetings and committees will normally have an established fixed format, which applies for every meeting. This type of formal agenda normally begins with:

  1. apologies for absence
  2. approval of previous meeting's minutes (notes)
  3. matters arising (from last meeting)

For more common, informal meetings, try to avoid the formality and concentrate on practicality. For each item, explain the purpose, and if a decision is required, say so. If it's a creative item, say so. If it's for information, say so. Put timings, or time-per-item, or both (having both is helpful for you as the chairman). If you have guest speakers or presenters for items, name them.

Running the Meeting

The key to success is keeping control. You do this by sticking to the agenda, managing the relationships and personalities, and concentrating on outcomes. Meetings must have a purpose. Every item must have a purpose. Remind yourself and the group of the required outcomes and steer the proceedings towards making progress, not hot air.
Politely suppress the over-zealous, and encourage the nervous. Take notes as you go, recording the salient points and the agreed actions, with names, measurable outcomes and deadlines. Do not record everything word-for-word, and if you find yourself taking over the chairmanship of a particularly stuffy group which produces reams of notes and very little else, then change things. Concentrate on achieving the outcomes you set the meeting when you drew up the agenda. Avoid racing away with decisions if your aim was simply discussion and involving people. Avoid hours of discussion if you simply need a decision. Avoid debate if you simply need to convey a policy issue. Policy is policy and that is that.

Defer new issues to another time. Practice and use the phrase 'You may have a point, but it's not for this meeting - we'll discuss it another time.' (And then remember to do it.)
If you don't know the answer, say so - be honest - don't waffle - say that you'll get back to everyone with the answer, or append it to the meeting notes.

If someone persistently moans on about a specific issue that is not on the agenda, quickly translate it into a simple exploratory or investigative project, and bounce it back to them, with a deadline to report back their findings and recommendations to you.
Always look at how people are behaving in meetings - look for signs of tiredness, exasperation, and confusion, and take necessary action.

As a general rule, don't deviate from the agenda, but if things get very heavy, and the next item is very heavy too, swap it around for something participative coming later on the agenda - a syndicate exercise, or a team game, a quiz, etc.

Meetings Notes or Meetings Minutes

Who takes the meeting notes or minutes, keeps command (minutes is a more traditional term, and today describes more formal meetings notes).

You must take the notes yourself, unless the meeting format dictates a formal secretary, in which case ensure the secretary is on your side. They are your instrument of control, so don't shirk it or give them to someone else as the 'short straw'.

If meeting minutes are taken as well you making personal notes of outcomes and decisions, two things happen:

  • People respect you
  • People see that you are recording agreed actions, so there's no escaping them

Meeting notes are essential for managing meeting actions and outcomes. They also cement agreements and clarify confusions. They also prevent old chestnuts reappearing. A meeting without notes is mostly pointless. Actions go unrecorded and therefore forgotten. Attendees feel that the meeting was largely pointless because there's no published record.

After the meeting, have the notes typed if they were not taken on a laptop to begin with, and circulate them straight away, copy to all attendees, including date of next meeting if applicable, and copy to anyone else who should see the notes.

The notes should be brief or people won't read them, but they must still be precise and clear. Include relevant facts, figures, accountabilities, actions and timescales. Any agreed actions must be clearly described, with person or persons named responsible, with a deadline. Use the acronym SMART for any agreed action (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time bound).
The final crucial element is following up the agreed actions (your own included). If you run a great meeting, issue great notes, and then fail to ensure the actions are completed, all is lost, not least your credibility. You must follow up agreed actions and hold people to them. If you don't they will very soon learn that they can ignore these agreements every time - negative conditioning - it's the death of managing teams and results. By following up agreed actions, at future meetings particularly, (when there is an eager audience waiting to see who's delivered and who hasn't), you will positively condition your people to respond and perform, and you will make meetings work for you and your team.

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