The Basics of Effective Meetings


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The Basics of Effective Meetings

Need help conducting effective meetings?

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Join Melissa Phillippi, President of Performance Culture, as she explains three simple steps to conducting effective meetings.

Are you prepared? Do you have a “scribe”? What time and where is your meeting taking place? These are important questions to ask oneself before conducting a meeting. Keep reading to learn if you are engaging in some of these best practices.


I can’t count how many articles and posts there are about “How to Conduct an Effective Meeting,” yet we so rarely see it done well.  Why is this? The only answer I can come up with is that, as human beings tend to do, we over complicate matters and look past the obvious answers.  We also are quite forgetful, abandoning the lessons we learned and forsaking the discipline of ensuring we execute every best practice, every time.  

Here are three simple steps to conducting effective meetings:

  1.  Prepare.

I like to shoot from my hip more than I’d like to admit.  But a meeting will end up being a waste of time if even one participant is not prepared.  That’s right. It’s not just the leader’s job to prepare. If there were agreed upon action items from the last meeting, each participant should be prepared to report on his or her action items.  And speaking of action items, as Patrick Lencioni reminds us in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, team members must hold each other accountable to group decisions. Preparation also applies to supplying the meeting agenda to participants ahead of time, if at all possible.  

This is not just for the introverts in your group, though I promise they will be hugely grateful if you follow this practice.  Even the most extroverted, caffeinated of us in the room will provide better ideas if we’ve had a chance to mentally process and organize our thoughts beforehand.  

  1.  Have a meeting “Scribe.”

You can keep your pen and notebook, or your Evernote, or your One Note, or whatever else you prefer to document your action items on, but there should still be ONE designated scribe recording the group’s agreed upon action items following the simple format of: Who is going to do WHAT by WHEN?

Why is this?  Ever play the telephone game as a kid?  It’s amazing how different we may interpret what we hear in the room, however, if one person is recording using the format stated above, preferably visibly for everyone to see, we decrease the chances of misunderstanding. Another note about recording action items: I have found the key to this begins with recognizing what is, and is not, an action item. How many times have you heard someone comment about an idea, another agree it’s a good one, only for the conversation to quickly turn to other items, leaving an uncertainty around the previous good idea?  Was this just a good idea, or is it one we want to execute upon? If so, WHO is going to do WHAT by WHEN?

Your meetings will be significantly more effective if someone is skilled at recognizing a possible action item and forcing the group to commit to it, save it for later, or abandon it altogether. After the meeting, the Scribe should then share the meeting notes and/or action items with each participant.

The Performance Culture System makes Conducting Effective Meetings incredibly easy with Agendas:

  • Create the meeting agenda in the cloud and send to participants ahead of time with one-click.
  • During the meeting, the “Scribe” records action items in the “Action Items” section.  Go figure.
  • At the conclusion of the meeting, copy the Agenda tagging the next meeting date so any participant can add their thoughts for next time, not affecting the now archived past meeting notes.
  1.  Don’t forget the Context.

I keep seeing this simple blunder come up.  Think about the context of your meeting, especially the day of your meeting. Fridays are typically a terrible day to have a productive, and specifically creative, meeting.  Your people have very little juice left at the end of the week and are already starting to mentally shut down. For goodness sake, move your team meeting to Monday or as early in the week as possible. This concept also applies to Check-Ins.  The goal of checking in with your direct report is to ensure alignment at the beginning of the week, addressing problems before they occur, not waiting to correct them in your “week in review.”  

Also, pay attention to the personality profiles and motivators of your team.  Do some of them highly value personal small talk before diving into the cold, hard facts?  If so, consider adding in a Performance Culture Best Practice: Agenda Item #1 is Best Things.  Everyone takes 1 – 2 minutes to share with the group one best personal and one best work-related thing that happened to them recently.  This practice also helps with building trust, the foundation of a high performing team.

And if your windowless office with uncomfortable chairs and no airflow is getting old, try changing up the meeting site from time to time.  Teammates with a high aesthetic motivator will gladly thank you and be amazingly more productive and engaged. Sorry Utilitarians. None of these concepts are earth-shattering, but the discipline to follow them consistently is what will transform your waste of an hour into an effective, and possibly even enjoyable, meeting.