Five Tips—A Cheat Sheet to Make Sure Your Meetings are Effective

How many times do you walk into a meeting with high hopes, thinking “we are finally going to get something done?” You try to fully engage in the meeting, only to walk out feeling defeating, saying, “that was a waste of my time; I have no idea what I’m supposed to do after that.”


At S&G, we provide one-on-one coaching or even group training for our clients that helps ensure all meetings are effective, empowering, and the best use of time for all participants.


But, as we come to a close for the year, we wanted to get you thinking about your upcoming meetings. And, to help you, we’ve put together a sort-of cheat sheet below, to help you make sure your meetings in 2018 are effective, more meaningful, and worthy of all those involved.

1. Remember first that a  good meeting is planned well. To help you, engage a design team that is representative of all of the stakeholder groups of attendees to help you answer important questions that become, what we call, the complete design for the meeting. The size of your design team is relative to the size of the attendees of your meeting.

  • Ensure your meeting design identifies a well-defined purpose for the meeting, for if you don’t know where you want to end up, you will never know if your meeting will get you there. Sometimes we ask: What is the overall difference this meeting will make for participants?
  • A good design also identifies the conversations and activities that are critical for us to include, so that we can ensure we achieve the meeting purpose.
  • Identify Who needs to be invited to participate in the conversations at the meeting.
  • As part of your meeting design, identify meeting logistics, I.E., who is taking notes? Who is running the meeting? Do you need a facilitator? What materials are needed?
  • Finally, a good design also create a plan for promoting the meeting and getting people to attend.


2. The power of a strong agenda – Many of the questions identified in your meeting design (see above) will help you create a strong meeting agenda to guide your meeting to success. Share the agenda with participants (ideally three to five days in advance), including any other preparation needed to make the best use of their time. Things to make sure you include in your agenda are:

  • Meeting Date/Time
  • Meeting’s physical Location or instructions to join the meeting virtually (depending on what is appropriate)
  • Purpose of the meeting
  • Any specific instructions or references to attachments to help participants prepare for the meeting
  • An agenda of activities (for each activity, include a space on the agenda for timing; Topic; Purpose; and, Inputs/Notes/Outputs). This last section of each activity is where you can take notes or record action items.


3. The power of effective reports that are sent in advance—Getting people to send in reports ahead of time allows the meeting leader to combine reports together, send them out in advance, and to spend more time, at our meeting, discussing or asking questions over reports. Just remember that:

  • Yes, we are creating an expectation that people read the reports in advance; or, we will give them a chance to read them at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Attendees can ask questions of clarification, giving people an opportunity to better understand the information they are receiving.
  • We now have more time to discuss or deliberate on those identified conversations from our reports—a much more productive and better use of our time together.


4. The power of small group dialogue can transform our conversation—Reworking our agenda to allow us to break a group of more than eight into smaller groups. During these small group break-out conversations, we move thoughts from an individual to the smaller group, and then group thoughts from the smaller group to the larger group. By using such a process, we:

  • Allow everyone to engage in meaningful conversation;
  • Keep the meeting moving along;
  • Create an opportunity to share individual thoughts, more formed thoughts, within our small group;
  • Share out our priorities with the larger group; and,
  • Let’s us, as a whole group, truly build consensus.


5. The power of a great closing—A great closing to a meeting leaves participants more excited and knowing what they need to do next. Things to keep in mind:

  • Identify the action items as a result of discussions at the meeting and make sure you have assigned each action to someone with a due date.
  • Identify other next steps, especially when we will meet next and other details.
  • Create an opportunity for people to evaluate or provide feedback on the meeting, as a whole. This can be done with a paper evaluation; or, you could simply ask for people to quickly and verbally check out with a couple questions: (1) What are you taking from today’s conversation; and, (2) What feedback do you have to help us make sure our next meeting is more successful.


At S&G, we understand it can be difficult to keep meetings both effective and engaging for all participants, but we are here to help, both with the cheat sheet tips above and by working with you directly.  


Contact us for a consult and let’s see if our executive coaching or training can help your organization create engaging and effective meetings that transform your work in 2018.